Sean Nealis and his teammates celebrate the game-winning goal. (Gaelen Morse-USA TODAY Sports)

Sean Nealis saved the Red Bulls from a draw and a bleak chance of reaching the postseason Saturday night.

The center back scored in the 87th minute to break a tie and lift New York to a 2-1 victory over Columbus Crew SC in their quest to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs, at Field  in Columbus, Ohio.

The win, the visitors’ first in Columbus in six years, moved the Red Bulls (12-11-7, 43 points) above the playoff line into sixth place in the Eastern Conference as they extended their unbeaten streak to eight games (6-0-2). Columbus (38) dropped to 10-14-8.

“This means a lot for the team,” Red Bulls head coach Gerard Struber said. “I am very proud of my boys today. This is not so much about the quality what we have. I think this is extremely for the mentality in difficult moments. I think I can remember two or three months ago when we speak about resilience, what we need in some difficult moments and now we realize, we have completely a different mindset in difficult moments. When we get sometimes a hit in the face, now we can manage that, now we can handle that.

“We are not after a mistake, confused. I think I have now the feeling after mistakes every single player show the right reaction.”

Patryk Klimala, who botched a penalty kick earlier in the half, set up the game-winner with a short pass to Nealis. The Hofstra University graduate then volleyed the ball home with the outside of his right foot past goalkeeper Ely Room from short range. It was Nealis’ second goal of the season.

“I was just creeping forward,” Nealis said. “I kind of saw [John] Tolkin creeping in the box. I was looking for the pull back there at the end, and it came through to the other side to Cristian [Casseres] and again I was just looking to get on the end of the cross. Patryk [Klimala] had a good header back post and I was able to get a foot on it and next goal, I need a better celebration. I was kind of just, I got stomped on my calf, so I was just checking on that. I should have been celebrating with the fellas.”

It didn’t take long for the Red Bulls to draw first blood as Cristian Casseres, Jr. tallied in the seventh minute, heading home a Tom Edwards corner kick from six yards past goalkeeper Ely Room.

Columbus, however, knotted things up at 1-1 in the 18th minute, as Miguel Berry converted a short pass by Steven Moreira from close range past keeper Carlos Coronel.

The goal snapped New York’s shutout streak at 361 minutes.

The goalkeepers stood out on either side of the interval.

Coronel denied former Red Bulls midfielder Derrick Etienne, Jr. a minute into first-half stoppage time while Room stopped Klimala’s attempt after the forward picked the pocket of Jonathan Mensah in the 47th minute.

Klimala botched an excellent opportunity to push the Red Bulls back into the lead in the 52nd minute after Wiki Carmona was taken down in the box by Marlon Hairston. On the ensuing PK, Klimala hestitated, waited for Room to dive. Room dove to the right and somehow Klimala placed his shot wide of an open net.

In the 65th minute, Coronel almost gave a goal away as he tried to make a tackle 40 yards from the net. He missed, leaving the goal open. Fortunately for the visitors, the ball was knocked out of bounds and Coronel raced back to his usual position.

Carmona missed a golden opportunity to put the Red Bulls into the lead in the 80th minute, but he fired his point-blank shot over the net.