A loss, and the White Sox would have slipped a season-high 7-1/2 games behind the American League Central-leading Tigers, having dropped four of five in the crucial home series.
Instead, the White Sox received a boost at just the right time, leaving them feeling like they're back in business.
"Had we lost that game, it would have been tough," White Sox center fielder Brian Anderson said. "Getting that win is huge. It kind of makes things a little bit better. I think we're all pretty pumped up right now."
Scott Podsednik was the hero, slapping a bases-loaded, game-winning single to right field in the bottom of the ninth inning off Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya, setting off a wild White Sox celebration on the infield grass.
Podsednik's late-game heroics came just a half-inning after White Sox closer Bobby Jenks suffered just his second blown save in 22 career chances against the Tigers, surrendering a two-out, game-tying two-run home run to Curtis Granderson in the ninth inning. Jenks entered with a 3-1 lead, but he was unable to preserve the victory for White Sox starter Gavin Floyd.
Jenks' letdown could have been enough to crumple the White Sox in past games on the homestand.
"Today, everybody could have just gone down and said, 'Oh, there we go again,' when Granderson hit the home run," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Everybody went back to the dugout and was rooting and cheering for each other."
Podsednik's hit was just the icing on a stellar bottom-of-the-ninth comeback for a team had struggled to manufacture runs and take advantage of opportunities with runners in scoring position during the homestand, going just 6-for-70 (.086) in those situations during the month of June.
That was not the case when it mattered Thursday, however.
Anderson led off the bottom of the ninth with a single. Chris Getz followed by laying down a bunt that Zumaya handled late. Zumaya's toss to first then got away from first baseman Ryan Raburn, allowing Anderson to scoot to third with nobody out. Zumaya then walked Josh Fields, loading the bases for Podsednik, who became the toast of the South Side.
"We have guys who can hit the ball out of the park," White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome said. "We have won a lot of games on the home run, but it sure is nice when you can do what we did today. Bunt, get a big hit to start the inning off and kind of manufacture runs that way from the seventh inning on. That's when it really is big. We'll take this and run with it."
Thome has always been one to hit the ball out of the park, and he did so again Thursday, launching a solo home run to left field in the second inning off Tigers starter Edwin Jackson to give the South Siders a 1-0 lead. The homer was his 12th of the season and No. 553 in his career.
An inning later, Thome rolled a bases-loaded RBI single off Tigers shortstop Adam Everett's glove, scoring Fields for a 2-0 advantage.
On the mound, Floyd continued his pitching brilliance of late, sailing through eight innings while allowing one run on five hits with five strikeouts and no walks. He threw 111 pitches, 77 for strikes.
Floyd's only slip came on a solo home run by Ramon Santiago in the eighth inning. But White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski got that run back in the bottom of the eighth with a solo home run of his own, giving Jenks a two-run cushion as he entered to try and gather the save.
Over his past five starts, Floyd has struck out 36 hitters and owns a 1.67 ERA, even though he has only earned two victories in that span.
Not that Floyd is too concerned. All he wants is a team victory, and he got his wish Thursday.
"That's all that matters," Floyd said. "I try to go out there and give our team a chance to win. I'm happy when we win, so, I mean, it's not a really big deal."
What is a big deal is this: Instead of heading toward the bottom of the American League Central, the White Sox remain a manageable 5-1/2 games in back of the division leaders. And they have a little momentum to take with them as Interleague Play begins again in Milwaukee.
"We have to keep fighting," Guillen said. "Every couple days we go out and people say, 'Well there we go,' but the last three days, the way we played, we feel a little bit better."