NEW YORK -- Moments like these plunge Carlos Delgado deep into reverie, back to the days of boyhood dreams and Little League fantasies. After all, every ballplayer with a pulse dreams of being the hero, of doing just what Delgado did in the late hours of Tuesday night.

The only thing is, Delgado should be getting used to it by now.

The first baseman once again filled the role of extra-inning hero, launching a two-out walk-off homer in the 12th inning to give the Mets some late-inning magic, and a 5-4 win that just moments earlier had seemed improbable.

"When you come to the plate with an opportunity to win a game for your team -- especially at home -- it's great," Delgado said. "Every little kid dreams of that."

Perhaps even more significant than the win was tangible evidence that Delgado's slump has officially ended. Batting just .209 as little as one week ago, Delgado now has 11 hits in his last six games, including four home runs -- two of which came on Tuesday.

"They say, 'Watch out when he gets hot,'" said reliever Joe Smith, who notched a gift win after Delgado's blast left the yard. "He can hit, and I'm seeing it firsthand."

Yet from the crowd reaction, it was hard to tell which meant more -- Delgado's dramatics, or the meltdown of Giants reliever Armando Benitez. Shea certainly reveled in both, but took a little extra pride in undressing a reliever who spent a turbulent five years in New York at the start of the decade.

Benitez entered the game in the bottom of the 12th after his Giants had tagged Smith for the go-ahead -- and what seemed to be game-winning -- run. The reliever then made the critical mistake of walking the human sparkplug, Jose Reyes, to lead off the inning, and inevitable chaos ensued.

Dancing off first in typical Reyes fashion, the shortstop caused Benitez to balk, sending him to second. An Endy Chavez sacrifice bunt put him on third, but when Carlos Beltran grounded into a drawn-in infield, the threat seemed to end.

Only nobody told Reyes. Again the shortstop danced, this time nearly halfway down the third-base line, irking Benitez enough to cause him to balk in the tying run.

The crowd erupted. And Reyes, confused as anyone, danced once more, this time touching home plate in the process.

"I saw nothing," Reyes said of the balk. "I saw the umpire, and he said, 'Balk' and I was running excited down the line."

For the Mets, it was a most improbable way to keep their close-game magic working. The team is now 3-0 in extra innings, and 8-3 in one-run games -- and Delgado has been the late-inning ring leader, with three game-winning RBIs to his credit.

"He's smoking the ball," said third baseman David Wright. "You don't hit 400-something homers just hitting [a home run] every now and then. His homers come in bunches."

Tuesday's bunch was enough to erase the memories of what hours before had been a pitching duel seemingly living up to its billing.

The Mets were silenced early by Giants rookie starter Tim Lincecum, who retired 11 straight to open the game, before finally allowing a walk and the first of Delgado's two home runs. Then he settled down again, surviving a rough patch to toss seven innings of three-run ball.

But Mets starter Oliver Perez, to his credit, quietly battled him pitch for pitch. The young lefty was shaky early in allowing two first-inning homers, but mowed down the next 14 straight Giants to reassume command of the game. Perez, like Lincecum, finished his day with three runs in seven innings.

"Some games that's going to happen," Perez said of the two first-inning shots. "You just have to keep working and keep your team in the game."

That's precisely what he did, and just long enough to allow the offense to grind out the three runs it needed to send the game to extras. Through eight innings, the Mets had as many hits -- three -- as runs, treading water against a pitching staff that wouldn't cave.

The only man that could touch the Giants was Delgado, whose resurgence has come at just the right time. With outfielder Shawn Green placed on the disabled list before Tuesday's game, the Mets were faced with the reality of an entire third of their Opening Day lineup unable to play.

Delgado had been slumping so much that he had been dropped first to fifth and then to sixth in the lineup, with Wright taking his spot at number four.

But Mets manager Willie Randolph had seen enough out of Delgado recently to plop him back in the middle, and the move paid dividends aplenty.

"We put him back in the cleanup spot," Randolph said, "and he cleaned up."

The effort gave the Mets their ninth walk-off win of the season, and, coupled with another Braves loss, pushed their NL East lead to five games. Not that this was simply just another win in any light. Not even close.

"It's a lot of fun," Delgado said. "It's another win, but it's completely different. Guys are in the clubhouse jumping and celebrating. We played good, but we earned it."