WINNIPEG - Anthony Calvillo just had to look at the faces of his teammates to know how much Friday's 32-26 win over the Blue Bombers meant.
The Montreal Alouettes quarterback had thrown three touchdown passes on the way to mounting a 32-13 fourth-quarter lead, only to see the Bombers claw back.
With eight seconds left in the game and Montreal clinging to a six-point lead, Winnipeg quarterback Alex Brink failed on two attempts to plunge for a touchdown from the one-yard line before time expired.
"You come in this locker-room and you can see the excitement of just the hard work that paid off there," Calvillo said.
"We knew that we needed this game in order to catch them and stay in the race for first place and we did that. But it's still going to be difficult."
With the win, Montreal tied Winnipeg atop the CFL standings at 8-5 and evened the season series between the clubs at a win apiece. The Alouettes and Blue Bombers play again Oct. 22 in Winnipeg.
Calvillo, who suffered a concussion in a win against Edmonton last week but was cleared to play, completed 26-of-44 pass attempts for 335 yards and no interceptions.
"On offence, we could have did a whole better job of closing that game off by getting some more first downs," Calvillo said.
"We're a little disappointed with that, but our defence basically bailed us out with those big stops on the two tries down on the goal line."
Brink was making his second career start in place of Buck Pierce, who was resting sore ribs.
The Bombers closed the gap to 32-26 with less than three minutes remaining on touchdowns by receiver Clarence Denmark and running back Chris Garrett.
Their final drive began with 1:03 left and was aided by two pass interferences on Montreal, the last that got them to the one-yard line.
"I thought I was in on both of them, but it's not my call," Brink said of his quarterback keepers.
Both plays were confirmed after video review.
The sophomore pivot was 24-of-40 for 326 yards, one TD, two interceptions and two fumbles. Only one of those fumbles were lost.
"It's unbelievably disappointing," Brink said. "Every guy that was on the field, that was on the sideline, just played their hearts out.
"And to drop it at the end with a yard to go, it’s heart breaking."
Winnipeg head coach Paul LaPolice said he thought there was still time on the clock for a third attempt.
"I thought we would have had one more play," he said. "The officials just said that we took too much time on that last play, is what they had said, which I didn't think we did, but I guess I'll go with what they said.
"It's a difficult loss for the guys, and certainly for us as coaches."
Winnipeg has lost four of its past five games.
Montreal fullback Dahrran Diedrick scored on a two-yard run and receivers Jamel Richardson, Kerry Watkins and S.J. Green caught Calvillo's TD passes.
Sean Whyte connected on a 27-yard field goal for the Als and added a single off a 41-yard miss.
Richardson, the league's leading receiver, hauled in six catches for 126 yards.
League-leading rusher Brandon Whitaker, who was flipped over by a hard hit from Bomber Alex Suber on the game's second play, bounced back and rushed 15 times for 75 yards.
Garrett started for Winnipeg at running back, replacing Fred Reid and backup Carl Volny, who both suffered season-ending knee injuries in last week's loss to Toronto.
He carried 11 times for 76 yards, including a 32-yard run for a TD with 2:34 remaining.
Bombers rookie linebacker Henoc Muamba, the first overall pick in this year's CFL Canadian college draft, ran a blocked punt 52 yards for his first career touchdown.
Denmark caught a 25-yard TD pass from Brink with a failed two-point convert 7:48 of the fourth. Justin Palardy booted a pair of field goals from 36 and 35 yards and has made 15 of his last 16 attempts.
Montreal defensive end Anwar Stewart, who had an interception, forced fumble and three tackles, didn't think Brink got across the goal-line with either attempt late in the fourth.
"No, he wasn't even close," Stewart said with a big smile. "But you know what, hats off to them, they fought back.
"We knew that's what type of game it was going to be. We'll be back October 22nd to break this tie-breaker and hoochie, koochie."
Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman saw the good and bad in his team's victory.
Montreal was penalized 18 times for 205 yards and Winnipeg 16 times for 156 yards.
"Overall, when you play a football team as good as the team we just played, to put yourself in those positions to have those kind of penalties, that's not going to be good for us down the road," Trestman said.
"But at the end of the day, what do you say? We had a great goal-line stand at the end of the game, played under complete duress with the interference penalty at the end."