NEW YORK -- His smile dragged its feet as it formed, then it flickered like a faulty light bulb. A sense of satisfaction came slowly to Aaron Heilman, and it hardly lingered on his face or in his thoughts. His silver lining had a dark cloud. Teammates had performed heroically; the Mets had won dramatically, but with one uncomfortable proviso -- despite Heilman. As he put it, "Everyone in the bullpen pitched great with the exception of me."

The smile went back into seclusion as Heilman spoke, and then it morphed into a smirk when it was suggested he had taken one for team. Without Heilman's ineffective pitching in the eighth inning, the Mets might have beaten the Phillies in the traditional nine. And what would that have accomplished? Instead, their most uplifting victory of the young season came in 12 innings. And it never would have happened as it did without Heilman's contribution.

Had he done as he had hoped and pitched a "clean" eighth, chances are Angel Pagan doesn't emerge from the eventual 4-3 victory over the Phillies as its hero, chances are the Mets don't need the run Pagan drove in and Jose Reyes scored. And Joe Smith's confidence doesn't get a booster shot, and Scott Schoeneweis doesn't get the opportunity to change the perception of the demanding and unforgiving patrons of Shea Stadium.

"Glad I could help," Heilman said.

He'll get over it. His teammates will see to that. One of them may even express some gratitude Friday when the team reassembles for the first of three games against the Brewers. If not, then some time in May or July, Heilman may kiddingly remind a colleague how he had helped back on April 10 by affording them opportunities that otherwise might not have developed.

The Mets, Heilman included, left Shea early Friday morning in a far better frame of mind than they would have had they won handily. They had turned the tables on the the Phillies, beaten them for the second straight night, taken a series. And they had done so as a team and gallantly.

"Every bit a team win," Smith said.

He knew how important that was. And it concerned him that the Mets needed that sort of elixir so early in their season.

"But we got it," Smith said. "That's great."

Reyes was delighted, too. He had two hits, one a double that led to the decisive run. And he had filled in the stolen base column on his bingo card in the bottom of the ugly eighth.

"Everyone was asking when I'm going to steal a base," he said.

Smith threw 1 1/3 innings, innocently pitching himself into trouble and then extricating himself to a degree. Then Schoeneweis, the new Doug Sisk in the eyes of the unforgiving fans, replaced Smith with one out and runners on first and second in the 11th and elicited a double-play ground ball from Chase Utley before getting the first two outs of the 12th.

"So I owe Aaron?" Schoeneweis asked. "I'll be sure to thank him."

Across the clubhouse, Pagan reveled in his best day in the big leagues -- two leadoff hits that led to the runs he scored in the fourth and sixth innings and then the game-winner, a well-struck single through the middle off losing pitcher Tom Gordon that scored Reyes -- barely -- from second base.

"I've had three hits, but I never had a walk-off hit," Pagan said. "Not in the big leagues."

No question it was a hit, the uncertainty was whether Reyes could score on it. Phillies center fielder Jayson Werth nearly threw out the Mets' swiftest runner.

"I didn't know," Reyes said. "He made a real good play. It was tight. But I was safe. Good call."

"I had the plate blocked. I had the ball before [Reyes] got there," Phillies catcher Chris Coste said. "He hit my glove [as] he reached for the plate. It's simple. I tagged him before he touched the plate."

"Once I saw it get through, I was happy," Pagan said. "But [Werth] was playing right behind second and made a perfect throw. I wanted Jose to score. I wanted us to win."

And across the clubhouse, no one wanted it more than Heilman. He felt guilty.

"We had a good game going," he said. "And I didn't execute pitches."

Heilman had been summoned to start the eighth inning after Pedro Feliciano had saved starter John Maine in the seventh. The Mets had led, 3-0, through six. But Maine surrendered a leadoff home run by Pedro Feliz in the seventh. When Coste, alMso a right-handed hitter, pulled a pitch for a double, manager Willie Randolph pulled his starter in favor of Feliciano who walked his first batter, then struck out Shane Victorino, Eric Brunlett and Chase Utley, a rare demonstration of dominance by the Mets' bullpen.

When Damion Easley doubled in the seventh, Randolph opted to have Marlon Anderson pinch-hit for Feliciano, even though Feliciano would have started the eighth against Ryan Howard and given the Mets a lefty-lefty matchup. Anderson, after a contentious at-bat, grounded out to end the seventh. And Howard got to face Heilman. He moved the Phillies one run closer with a leadoff home run over the center-field wall, the second damaging home run Heilman has allowed in what now is six innings.

"I got my pitches up again," Heilman said.

The Phillies then tied the score against Heilman on a walk to Pat Burrell, a single by Geoff Jenkins that put pinch-runner So Taguchi on third base and a softly hit infield out. Heilman ended the inning and was subjected to boos that sounded as if Sisk, Schoeneweis and, Jimmy Rollins and were exiting in unison.

"I don't think [Heilman] replaced me yet," Schoeneweis said. "Who knows? He did hear it pretty good.

"But I got it on Opening Day. I think I'm still their favorite. But I was getting outs tonight before New York fans. They probably were surprised. You know I'm making $4 million. There's a reason for that. I've gotten outs before."

Schoeneweis could smile, Reyes always can smile, but more readily after this one.

"It's never easy to beat them," Reyes said. "But tonight, we did. We beat the way they beat us, coming back. This feels good. We feel good to win the series against them and do it like this."

He ought to thank Heilman.