SAN FRANCISCO -- Defending their NFC West crown on their home turf apparently meant as much to the 49ers as enhancing their playoff hopes.
By nightfall Sunday, the 49ers still hadn't been dethroned just yet as the reigning division champions, knocking off the first-place Seattle Seahawks 19-17 at Candlestick Park.
"It's a statement to the world this is still our division, and until Seattle takes it from us, we'll continue to represent it," linebacker NaVorro Bowman said.
Leave it to Frank Gore's 30-year-old, record-setting legs to help steal the show at a storied venue on its proverbial last legs, or at least Candlestick's penultimate regular-season game.
Gore broke loose for a 51-yard run to the Seahawks' 18 to set up Phil Dawson's game-winning, 22-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining.
It was the third straight victory for the 49ers (9-4), bolstering their chances of securing at least a wild-card playoff berth.
"If you want to be the team that gets to the next level, that gets to the tournament and gets the trophy, you've got to take the north direction," said Gore, who reached the 100-yard mark for the third time this season (17 carries, 110 yards).
The Seahawks (11-2) could have secured the NFC West title and a first-round bye with a victory. But their fate was sealed once Eric Wright intercepted a deep pass by Russell Wilson at the 49ers' 20 with nine seconds remaining.
Wright, afterward, was more mesmerized with Gore's late heroics, noting: "Give the guy room and that's when the magic happens. It was a huge run."
The 49ers entered Sunday's game with an average margin of victory of 18.8 points, best in the league. They weren't complaining about winning a tight one Sunday against their chief rival, which last won at Candlestick in 2008.
Those past home wins were overshadowed, however, by the 49ers' past two blowout losses in Seattle: a 29-3 thrashing on Sept. 15 and a 42-13 rout last Dec. 23.
"You guys kind of counted us out already and felt Seattle had our number," Bowman said.
"We expected to blow them out," Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said, "but they got the benefit of a few calls tonight throughout the game, and that helps you, especially on third down. We will see them again, and it will be a different result."
The Seahawks (nine penalties, 85 yards) are still poised to secure the NFC playoffs' home-field advantage, and the 49ers remain slotted with the NFC's sixth and final playoff berth.
In the process of snapping Seattle's seven-game win streak, the 49ers denied Wilson's bid for a fifth win this season via a fourth-quarter comeback.
Instead, 49ers counterpart Colin Kaepernick celebrated his fourth career fourth-quarter comeback, and his immediate reaction was to swap jerseys on the field with Seahawks wideout Ricardo Lockette, his housemate until the 49ers released Lockette in training camp.
Kaepernick had an 8-yard run to the Seahawks' 7 to clinch a game-winning chip shot for Dawson, whose fourth field goal of the game extended his franchise record to 20 consecutive successful attempts.
Earlier on that winning drive, Gore darted past key blocks by guards Adam Snyder and Alex Boone for his game-breaking 51-yard run.
Coach Jim Harbaugh said offensive coordinator Greg Roman had been "saving that call in his back pocket," after Kaepernick checked out of it earlier in the game. It produced Gore's longest carry since a 55-yard effort in October 2011 at Detroit, and it nearly matched his game total up to that point (54 yards on 12 carries).
Gore dived down at the Seahawks 18 to keep precious time running off the clock, well aware that Earl Thomas and Sherman were in hot pursuit.
"When I saw the hole, I knew (Thomas) was so fast to the ball and I knew he'd overrun it, so I set up outside and broke it in," said Gore, who was coming off his worst three-game stretch as a starter.
Barely two minutes earlier, the Seahawks had sneaked ahead 17-16 when Steven Hauschka converted a 31-yard field goal. Keying that go-ahead drive was Golden Tate's 38-yard punt return to the 49ers' 27.
"We're playing for our lives and trying to get in the playoffs," said wideout Anquan Boldin (team-high six catches, 93 yards). "We're getting hot at the right time, and that's what you want."
A promising third-quarter drive ended when Kaepernick's underthrown, fade pass to Michael Crabtree got intercepted at the 1 by Byron Maxwell. It was the fourth consecutive game a 49ers quarterback had a pass intercepted inside the Seahawks' 5-yard line.
After trading leads throughout the first half, the 49ers took a 16-14 lead into halftime on Vernon Davis' 8-yard touchdown catch with 6 seconds remaining in the half. Kaepernick completed 5 of 6 passes on the drive, shaking off his 4-of-13 start.
Davis' touchdown was his 11th this season, and it was the first touchdown the 49ers had scored in the first half against Seattle since the 2011 season opener.
Dawson made all three of his first-half field-goal attempts, including a 52-yarder that not only put the 49ers ahead 9-7 but also set a franchise record as it was his 19th straight successful attempt.
While Sherman and some 49ers projected a playoff rematch, Harbaugh wouldn't bite on such talk, instead turning his attention on Sunday's visit to Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers (4-9) have won four of their past five.
"They're playing really good football, and each game is the most important game of the year for us right now," Harbaugh said.