TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — They strolled toward each other in the center of Bryant-Denny Stadium, the former coach at LSU and the guy who replaced him. After a quick handshake and a few obligatory words, Nick Saban and Les Miles headed off in opposite directions.

Maybe now, the folks at LSU can get over Saban and be content with what they have: a living-on-the-edge team and a cardiac coach who keeps finding ways to win.

The third-ranked Tigers did it again Saturday night, scoring two touchdowns in the final three minutes to stay in the thick of the national championship race with a heart-stopping 41-34 win over No. 17 Alabama. Later on, No. 2 Boston College lost to Florida State.

"When our backs are against the wall, we play our best," said Glenn Dorsey, LSU's defensive star. "When we need to make plays, we make them."

This one will surely play well in Cajun Country, where they got to relish the sight of Saban, dressed in a white shirt with crimson trim, going over to congratulate the gold-and-purple-clad players he left behind two years ago.

Saban coached a couple of seasons in the NFL, then stunned the LSU faithful by returning to the college game — at Alabama, of all places, a rival school in the Southeastern Conference.

This was payback, not matter how much Saban tried to protest.

"It ain't got nothing to do with me," he said in a fiery post-game news conference that bordered at times on a lecture. "I don't coach LSU anymore. I coach Alabama. I'm going to do a good job coaching Alabama. We're going to recruit good players. We're going to have a good team. We're going to have a good program.

"So, it's got nothing to do with me. Nothing."

At the very least, it was about his successor at LSU. Miles has faced persistent criticism that he's not that great a coach, that he's simply winning with the enormous talent Saban left behind.

In the locker room, the players presented Miles with the game ball.

"It's good to get this game behind us," said quarterback Matt Flynn, "and let coach Miles know this is his team."

The Tigers (8-1, 5-1 SEC) pulled it out in typical fashion, going down to the wire in their fourth straight game.

Alabama (6-3, 4-2) went ahead on a 61-yard punt return by Javier Arenas with 7 1/2 minutes left, and the Crimson Tide was in position to deliver a knockout when the Tigers faced fourth-and-four at the Bama 32.

No problem for this team that went 5-for-5 on fourth-down conversions in a win over Florida to start this remarkable run of nail-biting games.

Flynn tossed a pass over the middle to Early Doucet, who shook away from one defender, faked out another and went all the way to the end zone for the tying score with 2:49 remaining.

Alabama got it back, but safety Chad Jones burst up the middle to sack John Parker Wilson and knock the ball away. It rolled along the turf until LSU's Curtis Taylor fell on it at the Tide 4.

Two plays later, Jacob Hester dove over from the 1 with 1:26 left and LSU was still in the title race.

"We kept hanging in there, kept fighting," Miles said. "We found a way to win. I've never seen that many mistakes in a game. We'll never play that poorly again."

Here's one for Miles' critics: The biggest play was delivered by one of his recruits; Jones is a true freshman from Baton Rouge.

"Some people are down on him, but coach Miles is a great coach," Doucet said. "I'm happy to be playing for him."