SANTA CLARA -- The Earthquakes' breakaway run to the Major League Soccer playoffs continued unabated Wednesday night with an uplifting 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids in front of a sellout crowd of 10,525 at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Thank the usual suspects for another stellar performance as San Jose (13-11-8) extended its unbeaten streak to five games with four victories and a draw.
Chris Wondolowski got his team-leading 10th goal of the year in the 69th minute, and a formidable defense did the rest as the Quakes remained in sixth place with two games left in the regular season.
They are one point out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference after Wondolowski headed in a corner kick from midfielder Shea Salinas, who has a team-leading eight assists.
"It feels like we're coming together at the right time," midfielder Cordell Cato said.
The improbable turnaround has been orchestrated by interim coach Mark Watson, who took over when Frank Yallop left the team in June. Since the change, the Quakes have gone 10-5-1 to put themselves in playoff contention.
Now the season comes down to beating the Los Angeles Galaxy on Oct. 20 at the StubHub Center. The Quakes' biggest rival is tied with the Rapids (13-10-9) in fourth place in the West with 48 points.
Wondolowski's seventh game-winner of the season came moments after Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin rejected his header that resulted in a corner kick. Salinas served the ball into the box where the Danville native emphatically headed it past Irwin.
"Shea just put it in dangerous areas all night," said Wondolowski, who has scored at least 10 goals in four consecutive seasons. "We couldn't quite find the finishing touch."
But even when it appeared the game would end in a scoreless tie -- a result that would have all but killed San Jose's playoff hopes -- Wondolowski's teammates never wavered.
Sam Cronin and Jason Hernandez pulled the Quakes' star aside after his near misses in the second half and said, "You're going to get one."
Salinas also was feeling it.
"We always know we're going to score," he said.
Four minutes before the goal, defender Jordan Stewart got a lead pass down the left side and served into the box where Wondolowski turned and fired. With Irwin off the line, Rapids captain Drew Moor slid across the goal line for an inspiring save. With Irwin still out of position, Moor then saved Alan Gordon's rebound shot.
All the runs toward Colorado's goal could be attributed to a finely tuned defense that has recorded seven shutouts during an 8-2-2 run since mid-July.
Even without center back Victor Bernardez, who's with Honduras for World Cup qualifying games this week, the Quakes didn't flinch.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.
Earthquakes (13-11-8) at L.A. Galaxy (14-11-6), 6 p.m. ESPN