The Seattle SuperSonics almost lost a 20-point fourth quarter lead tonight, but held off the Washington Bullets for a 115-112 victory at the Kingdome.

The Bullets trailed by 20 points with nine minutes left, but got back in the game on three-point baskets by Greg Ballard and Ricky Sobers and a three-point play by Jeff Ruland. Their defensive pressure also rattled Seattle, which has had trouble holding leads late in the game.

Washington cut the lead to five points with 62 seconds remaining after a hook shot by Ruland and a free throw by Sobers.

After a free throw by Phil Smith, Sobers made another three-point shot to cut the lead to three points. Sobers then stole the ball from James Donaldson, but committed an offensive foul as he drove into Lonnie Shelton with 21 seconds left.

The Sonics held the ball the rest of the game as the Bullets couldn't catch up with whoever had the ball in order to foul him.

"It was encouraging we were able to come back from such a large deficit and we had a chance to win, but we just couldn't catch up with the ball so we could foul and get it back," said Bullet Coach Gene Shue.

"It was a case of another one of those slow starts doing us in," said Sobers.

Gus Williams led the Sonics with 26 points; Ballard had 23 and Sobers 21 for the Bullets.

It was the Bullets' 10th straight loss on the road and their second in a row on this six-game road trip. They play at Portland Sunday night.

Seattle's victory was only its sixth in 23 games.

Guard Frank Johnson had missed the opener of this road trip Tuesday at Golden State because of a jammed toe on his right foot. He was back in the starting lineup tonight, but forward Charles Davis missed the game with muscle spasms in his neck.

The SuperSonics also made a change in their back court, starting Smith in place of David Thompson. Thompson has been bothered much of the season with a sore knee and hasn't been effective lately, shooting 39 percent in the last 11 games.

Williams made three straight long jump shots to get the SuperSonics off to a 6-2 start. They led, 9-4, when Ballard made three straight 18-foot jumpers as Washington outscored Seattle, 8-2, to take a 12-11 lead halfway through the first quarter.

The SuperSonics responded with eight straight points on two free throws by Smith and baskets by Danny Vranes, Williams and Shelton.

Seattle went on to outscore the Bullets, 18-4, to move to a 29-16 lead.

Five SuperSonics made field goals in the first 3 1/2 minutes of the second period and they took a 41-25 lead.

The SuperSonics were leading by 15 when Ballard helped the Bullets close within nine with 2:25 left in the half. But Seattle got two free throws from Williams, one from Jack Sikma after a technical foul on Don Collins and a layup from Greg Kelser to make it 60-46.

Collins, playing point guard the last three minutes of the half because Johnson and Sobers were in foul trouble, had 11 points in the period. The Bullets still trailed, 64-51, at halftime.

The Bullets were outrebounded, 24-16, in the first half with Ruland and Ballard failing to get a rebound.

The Bullets made five shots in a row early in the third period but they didn't get any closer because the SuperSonics made seven in a row.

With Donaldson scoring 10 points, Seattle held a 94-76 lead at the end of the third period.