David Wright hit the dirt Monday afternoon, the momentum of his slide taking him across home plate.

But before he could pop back up, he anxiously craned his head toward the umpire.

When Paul Nauert extended his arms -- the signal for safe -- Wright unleashed a fist pump seven years in the making.

All those seasons of darkness led the Mets here, to a sun-splashed Labor Day in the nation's capital, to an 8-5 victory over the Nationals that increased their lead to five games against their archrivals.

More important still, it offered perhaps the strongest hint yet that the Mets possess the mettle needed to withstand the pressures of playoff baseball, a trait that once again may elude the Nationals.

"We're all excited -- not just for the win, but the way we won this game," said Wright, whose slide into home plate capped a three-run seventh, one that he triggered by knocking in the go-ahead run.

The flurry proved to be the deciding blow in an afternoon in which the teams traded haymakers, with Mets starter Jonathon Niese allowing five runs in 31/3 and the Nats' Max Scherzer surrendering five runs in six innings.

By day's end, veteran Juan Uribe stood in the visitor's clubhouse, his acoustic version of Michael Jackson's classic "Beat It" providing the soundtrack as the Mets basked after what Wright called a "character win."