SAN FRANCISCO — Every time the Seattle Seahawks seemed to steal some momentum, they found a way to hurt their cause.
Costly penalties. Missed chances. Untimely breakdowns.
They're not NFC West champions just yet. The reigning division winners in San Francisco made sure of it with a 19-17 victory Sunday.
These teams fully expect to see each other once more come January, and Richard Sherman offered a postgame parting shot to further fuel an already fiery and feisty — but, so far, not fisty — rivalry until then.
"We didn't project it to be this way," the outspoken cornerback said. "We expected to blow them out 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."
Frank Gore's 51-yard run set up a go-ahead 22-yard field goal by Phil Dawson with 26 seconds remaining, and the 49ers turned away a chance for Seattle to clinch the division at Candlestick Park.
"I don't know if it was their Super Bowl, but they played a great game," Seahawks defensive end Red Bryant said.
Russell Wilson threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Luke Willson and Marshawn Lynch ran for an 11-yard score for Seattle, which failed to pull off a franchise-best sixth road victory in its fifth straight loss at The 'Stick.
The 49ers are unbeaten at home against the West since losing to the Seahawks on Oct. 26, 2008.
Gore broke for his big gain with just more than four minutes left, sparking the key 11-play, 76-yard drive that helped the 49ers (9-4) stop the playoff-bound Seahawks (11-2) from grabbing away the West in San Francisco.
"It's disappointing but we've still got three games left and we've got the possibility of doing it next week, so we've just got to keep our heads up," Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said.
Eric Wright, who briefly left the game with a head injury, intercepted a last-ditch deep pass by Wilson with 9 seconds left to seal it.
In an emotionally filled afternoon of missed chances and costly penalties, this rivalry game more than lived up to the hype.
"Enjoy it? Not the word I would use. It's like going to the dentist chair for 3½ hours and getting a root canal," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "These games are only for the tough."
The two young quarterbacks finished with nearly the same stats. Wilson went 15 of 25 for 199 yards and a touchdown with one interception, while counterpart Colin Kaepernick threw for 175 yards and completed 15 of his 29 passes with a TD and an interception.
After a home rout of New Orleans on Monday night, the Seahawks were trying to make it two mammoth wins over NFC powers in seven days. They hurt themselves several times down the stretch.
"I'm probably most disappointed that there were a lot of critical penalty situations in this game," coach Pete Carroll said. "It felt like it kind of dictated the flow of it."
Seattle likely lost linebacker K.J. Wright for at least six weeks with a broken bone in his foot, Carroll said.
Golden Tate helped put the Seahawks ahead midway through the fourth quarter with a 38-yard punt return. Wilson then hit Jermaine Kearse for a 14-yard gain and first down from the 24. But on third down from the 13, Wilson was forced to throw out of bounds under pressure.
Seattle settled for Steven Hauschka's 31-yard field goal that stayed just inside the left upright with 6:20 remaining.
While Lynch went over 1,000 yards rushing for the third straight season and fifth in his seven-year career, he slowed down in the second half. He wound up with 72 yards on 20 carries — just 22 yards in the second half — as the 49ers defense kept intact its streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher this season.
With LaMichael James catching the punt, O'Brien Schofield bumped James and received a 15-yard fair catch interference penalty. That started San Francisco's drive at the 48 but the 49ers went three and out.
The Seahawks had won seven in a row since an Oct. 6 loss at Indianapolis. They also had taken their last two meetings with the 49ers, both at home, by outscoring San Francisco 71-16 — 29-3 in Week 2.
Now, the Niners realize they probably will have to make another trip to the Pacific Northwest and get by the Seahawks to return to the Super Bowl.
"If we keep doing our thing and they keep doing their thing, no question," Gore said.
NOTES: The 49ers didn't target Sherman until there was 9:44 remaining in the second quarter and the incompletion drew a 5-yard holding penalty and automatic first down. ... Seahawks C Max Unger sustained a second-half chest injury.
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