Leave it to the New York Red Bulls to keep it interesting. On the very last kick of a controversy-filled match against the New England Revolution, the Red Bulls punched their ticket for the MLS playoffs.

"Again, last second, my heart’s going to give out soon," smiled coach Mike Petke after the match.

The Red Bulls got off to a flying start in front of the sold out crowd, with Fabian Espindola providing the opening goal after fourteen minutes. With constant pressure on New England's defense, Espindola cherry-picked a slow pass from Scott Caldwell. The Argentine striker took a touch to get into space and fired a long shot into the lower right corner past Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis. It looked at the time like New York would roll to an easy victory.

But the Revolution would not go quietly, as their post-season hopes hinge on getting full points for the remainder of the season. No one wanted a goal more than Juan Agudelo, the Red Bull Academy player who was traded away in May of last year. The match was his first against his former club (and likely to be his last, as he's signed a pre-contract to join Stoke City in January). Agudelo tried to be a pest for the defense, but his penchant for flopping didn't endear him to his old fan base, who greeted him with a "Red Bull Reject" chant at one point.

The game would pivot on a terrible late blown call by referee Fotis Bazakos. New England worked the ball into the box in the 83rd minute, and Saer Sene took a shot that Jamison Olave blocked away with his shoulder. Bazakos inexplicably blew his whistle and awarded a penalty, the 10th that RBNY has conceded this season. A replay of the incident played on the jumbotron at Red Bull Arena, and despite all evidence to the contrary, Bazakos held fast and gave New England their spot kick. Luis Robles would again guess correctly but not be able to reach the pinpoint shot from Lee Nguyen, and the Revolution were back in the match.

"All I know," Petke smirked after the match, "is the second I congratulated (Jamison) Olave for making the playoffs there was a giant ball mark pretty much on his chest, inside, right inside shoulder. I just told him to give it to the laundry room to get that dirt off of there. You guys heard what I said, right? That’s all I said."

Thierry Henry opted for a different tact to avoid a league fine for criticizing officials, telling the assembled media "I will not mention the last twenty minutes, because I will have to mention someone else. I don't actually want to do it. I will let you guys do it. You don't get fined. It's way better."

Bazakos would make another questionable call the other way soon after, sending off New England's Andy Dorman for a dangerous tackle on Eric Alexander. Dorman's tackle was certainly fast, but he seemed in control and his studs were largely down. Still, New England would have to finish with 10 men.

With the game entering stoppage, New England would score what looked like a dagger. In the same way Espindola had stripped Caldwell in the first half, Diego Fagundez robbed the ball off David Carney. A few steps into the box allowed him to blast a shot past Luis Robles, sending New England up 2-1 with just minutes to go.

Two psychological forces battled inside Red Bull Arena in the closing minutes. On one side, the immense weight of this franchise's 17 years of failure, of collapsing late, of letting games to inferior opponents slip. On the other, the new-found belief that this team can pull results late, as they did against Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles and Toronto.

The "Curse of Caricola" would be overcome (for the moment, at least) by "Captain Clutch", Tim Cahill. The Red Bulls earned a free kick from the left side of the box. Bazakos sent Revolution defender Andrew Farrell off the field to receive medical treatment, and the Red Bulls brought Luis Robles up, giving New York an 11-on-9 advantage in the box. The free kick would be punched away by Matt Reis, falling squarely to Tim Cahill. Cahill judged it perfectly, placing a looping header up, over Reis, and into the net. The South Ward exploded, the Revolution screamed in protest, and the Red Bulls became the first team to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs. It will be their 10th playoff run in the last 11 years.

"I feel like it’s what we definitely deserved, because we should have never put ourselves in that position," said Cahill after the match. "But you get times in games and situations where you get tested; today we got tested big time. We made a few mistakes, the penalty was dubious but it’s difficult to see things. I played defensive midfield the whole game and I wasn’t as mobile after last week; with my ankle being sore. When I had the chance to get forward I was praying for a cross and it didn’t come. But in the end the box was so crowded, I asked (Thierry Henry) for a block and then I asked Peguy (Luyindula) for a block and as I ran in, I backed off my run and then the ball fell nicely. It was bittersweet. "

The draw should have cost New York their spot atop the Supporters' Shield standings. But with Real Salt Lake only managing a draw and Seattle getting smoked 5-1 in Colorado later in the night, the Red Bulls remain the top team in the league. Their Shield fate may be out of their hands, as multiple teams can pass them with their games in hand; the Red Bulls will be idle next week and will get to watch the standings before heading to Houston for their final road game on the 20th.

Thierry Henry, as upbeat as he's been all year in the locker room, praised the whole team's effort and reflected on what was necessary for the playoffs: "We know the team, and especially the way we've been grabbing points lately, it's all about attitude and commitment...you have to bring that mentality to the playoff if you want to win. Hopefully things can go our way, but usually things go your way when everyone gives 100%."

And first year head coach Mike Petke, who keeps being tossed around Coach Of The Year, finally got his chance to reflect - briefly. "It’s a great moment right now for the organization. It’s a good moment for me, to take a deep breath finally, but this was our initial goal. Our initial goal was to make the playoffs, and now our goals get recalculated. So, it’s back tomorrow, the guys get a couple of days off because of our bye weekend next weekend. Hopefully they get rest, both mentally and physically, and then we move on to our second goal."

Next match: Sunday, October 20, 4PM ET, at Houston (TV: UniMas, MSG)