CHICAGO, May 4 (Ticker) -- Having lived on the edge all season, the Washington Wizards nearly fell off it before they were rescued by Gilbert Arenas.

Arenas sank a pull-up 16-footer at the buzzer, giving the wobbly Wizards a 112-110 victory over the Chicago Bulls that averted one of the biggest collapses in postseason history.

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"That is a tough one to swallow," said Arenas, sounding as if his team had lost the game. "We had them the whole game, and for the game to come down to a last shot is tough. We have to focus better than that."

The fifth-seeded Wizards grabbed the pivotal fifth game and control of their Eastern Conference first-round series with their third straight win over the fourth-seeded Bulls. But as they have all season, they did it the hard way.

"We are very happy coming in here and doing what we had to do," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. "It was just a great effort on our part. However, we are not satisfied how we closed out the game."

"It was just crazy at the end," Wizards forward Antawn Jamison said. "Gilbert just came through big for us."

Displaying the patience and teamwork that has helped them turn around the series, the Wizards led by as many as 22 points late in the third quarter and turned back a rally by the Bulls midway through the final period before a last-minute meltdown.

Holding a 108-98 lead with 41 seconds to go, Washington missed 4-of-6 free throws while Chicago's Jannero Pargo came in cold off the bench and drained three 3-pointers, turning around fans who were headed for the United Center exits.

"I knew I would be called on because the way the game was going and since I had been in that situation many times," Pargo said. "So when my number was called, I was ready."

Pargo's third 3-pointer came after teammate Kirk Hinrich missed a pair of foul shots but scrambled for the offensive rebound as the Wizards failed to box out, giving the Bulls a 110-110 tie with 5.2 seconds remaining.

"They are tough and they hustle - they wouldn't die," Wizards center Brendan Haywood said. "They just got every break down the stretch - missed free throws, big threes, loose balls, everything."

After a timeout, Arenas took the inbounds pass above the top of the arc, dribbled inside the circle and elevated for a jumper over Hinrich that splashed through as the buzzer sounded, bringing a silence over the crowd and a sigh of relief from his bench.

"At the three-second mark, I think he thought I was going to pull up for the three, but I wanted to take more dribble and just jump over him," Arenas said.

In reaching the postseason for the first time in eight years, the Wizards were a staggering 17-6 in games decided by three points or less or in overtime by relying heavily on Arenas, an All-Star guard who thrives on pressure.

"I knew I was going to make it," said Arenas, who was just 4-of-13 from the field before his game-winner. "I shoot those shots every day, and when you are growing up you dream about things like that. So when you get the chance, you don't want to blow it."

"Gilbert's shot was huge," Jordan said. "He timed it just right. Tonight he didn't shoot well but did what was needed to get us a win."

Larry Hughes had 33 points and seven assists and Arenas added 16 and eight for the Wizards, who have held the lead for all but 62 seconds since the third quarter of Game Three.

Game Six is Friday at the MCI Center, where the Wizards have beaten the Bulls 10 straight times. Washington has not won a playoff series since 1982 or a best-of-seven set since 1979, when it last reached the NBA Finals.

"Our back is against the wall now and we have to swing our way out of the corner," Hinrich said.

Sixth Man Award winner Ben Gordon scored 27 points and Hinrich added 23 for the Bulls, who got here with defense but are having trouble stopping the Wizards. The entire series has been played at a pace favoring Washington, which is averaging 111.7 points in its three wins.

Refusing to rush shots and getting their big men involved, the Wizards shot a blistering 64 percent (25-of-39) from the field with 14 assists in the first half, racing to a 63-49 lead.

"We finally learned to pass up a good shot for a great shot," said Haywood, who scored 17 points. "The first two games, we would come down and take wild threes when we got rattled."

A 3-pointer by Jamison, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds, gave Washington an 84-62 lead before Chicago closed the third quarter with an 11-2 surge - and kept coming in the final period.

"We waited too long," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "Our intensity finally got to a playoff-like level late in the third. Until then, they were the better team and they deserved to win."

Gordon scored 11 points before a three-point play by Tyson Chandler - who had 22 points and 10 rebounds off the bench - made it 96-90 with 5:12 left. But Hughes made two free throws, Arenas sank a jumper and Jared Jeffries dunked for a 102-90 bulge with 3:42 to go.

Jeffries scored 12 points for the Wizards. Othella Harrington scored 12 points and Pargo 10 for the Bulls, who made a franchise playoff-record 13 3-pointers but were beaten on the boards, 49-36.

When asked how his team could improve its rebounding, Skiles snarled, "Jumping would be good, for a start. Seeing where the ball is going, getting a body on somebody, getting in the air with two hands are a few things."