TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -Slogging through penalties and turnovers and yet another heart-thumping game, No. 2 LSU got the two things Tigers fans desperately craved.
A win over Nick Saban and, while the celebration was still kicking into high gear, a significant boost to their national championship hopes courtesy of Florida State's upset of then-No. 2 Boston College.
The final tallies: LSU 41, No. 21 Alabama 34. Les Miles 1, Nick Saban 0. A two-for-one festival of joy for LSU fans.
True to form, the Tigers (8-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) had to go into survival mode to earn the win and that one-spot leap in the rankings.
``When our backs are against the wall, we play our best,'' defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey said. ``When we need to make plays we make them.''
This time the plays came on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Matt Flynn to Early Doucet that erased Alabama's 34-27 lead with 2:49 left.
Then came freshman Chad Jones' sack of John Parker Wilson, who fumbled at the Tide 3-yard line. Two plays later, Jacob Hester plunged into the end zone for the lead, setting the defense up for one final stop.
It was the fourth time Miles' Tigers needed to come up big late, and the third time they have come through. The resume of resilience is marred only by a triple-overtime loss to Kentucky and enhanced by nip-and-tuck wins over Florida, Auburn and now 'Bama (6-3, 4-2) in a 4-hour, 13-minute slugfest.
Pretty, it wasn't. LSU was flagged 14 times for 130 yards. Flynn threw interceptions on three consecutive second-quarter drives.
``We need to correct some mistakes and improve and if we do, this team can be something special,'' Miles said.
It already has a good shot at winning out, and doesn't even need to in order to make the SEC championship game with head-to-head wins over division rivals Auburn and Alabama good for tiebreaker edges. Standing in the Tigers' way: Louisiana Tech, Mississippi and Arkansas, teams with a combined 13-15 record. Plus the SEC championship game if LSU wins those games, probably against either Georgia or Tennessee.
That enviable position aside, the Tigers were also focused on what to expect from Miles in their next practice.
``Coach let us know we made a lot of mistakes,'' Dorsey said. ``We probably won't enjoy Monday's practice.''
If the game was an emphatic statement for LSU, Alabama made a strong one, too.
The Tide nearly overcame the lack of a running game, Wilson's 14-of-40 passing day and Flynn's three touchdown passes to beat a national title contender.
Alabama took the lead on Javier Arenas' 61-yard punt return midway through the fourth quarter after trailing 17-3 just over 15 minutes into the game.
However, the Tide had two turnovers, allowed seven sacks and gained 20 yards on 33 carries - and that was only after Wilson scrambled for a 23-yarder on the final drive.
``My hands are bruised from smacking them together after we made mistakes and did the wrong thing,'' Saban said. ``Sometimes there's no consequences until you do it against somebody as good or better than you.
``We competed well in the game. We scratched and clawed but when it came right down to it, we didn't play well enough to beat a good team,'' he said.
LSU was dominant on the stat sheet beyond its litany of mistakes, outgaining Alabama 475-254 in total yards. The Tide also went three-and-out on six possessions.
Alabama was hoping to be the team that used the game as a launching pad. The two teams were tied atop the SEC West entering the game.
``We should have won, and I'm really angry right now,'' Alabama linebacker Darren Mustin said after the game. ``We kind of beat ourselves in the end. I knew they were the No. 3 team in the country, but this is a crazy year in NCAA football. Everybody's beating everybody.''
Saban wasn't taking solace in coming close. His team had already done that in losses to Georgia and Florida State, and wasn't able to duplicate the dominant performance in a 41-17 win over Tennessee in the Tide's last outing.
``There's no such thing as a moral victory,'' Saban said. ``We had an opportunity to do something out there, whether they outplayed us or not, and we didn't get it done. And that's not good. And we need to learn and grow from that and understand what it takes.
``We've only played one complete game all year and if we're going to have a good football team, we're going to have to play more complete games.''

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