At the Takoma Station tavern in Northwest Washington, owner Eileen Boyd gasped when quarterback Doug Williams went to the ground with an apparent injury, then she cheered her relief when the Redskins star pulled himself up and lumbered back to the bench.

At Hazel's restaurant in Adams-Morgan, Redskins fan Monicia Hightower and about 40 other home-towners urged a sputtering Washington offense toward the goal line and tried to shake off the jeers of a lone Minnesota Vikings loyalist who had crashed the party there.

And in Georgetown, the sports bars erupted in traditional championship pandemonium as the Redskins, once more keeping their fans in suspense until the final seconds of the game, walked off the field at RFK Stadium yesterday taking a National Football Conference title to the Super Bowl.

After a season that had all the twists and turns of a shanked punt, fans reveled in the Redskins' 17-10 win over the Vikings with equal parts relief and elation.

For many Washingtonians, it was supposed to be a special day because Williams could earn a chance to be the first black quarterback to start in a Super Bowl duel.

But in the end, thoughts about racial pride were temporarily forgotten as fans black and white united in a common goal: exhorting the Redskins to move the ball into the end zone just one more time.

"I would love to see him {Williams} go to the Super Bowl, because he's black," said Lisa Treadwell, a communications student at the University of the District of Columbia who, from a bar stool in front of the television at Takoma Station, nervously watched the Redskins nurse a slim lead. "But I love the Redskins, so I'm a fan either way."

Even Redskins players readily conceded that their performance yesterday was not pretty, but it was enough to get the job done. That seemed to sum up the mood of many fans, whose sense of a Redskins juggernaut this season had been shaken by a players strike, losses to also-rans and a confusing triple switcheroo at the quarterback position.

"I'll take it any way I can," said Pat Cotter, a 20-year-old UDC student, celebrating in Georgetown.

After the victory, fans waved pennants and shouted on the sidewalks at Wisconsin Avenue and M Street NW while passing motorists honked their approval. By early evening, D.C. police had reported at least one arrest after officers apprehended a man in a Redskins cap whose notion of celebrating was to attempt to direct traffic in the middle of the intersection.

Until the coin toss at the start of yesterday's game, much of the attention had focused on Williams and his role as a black leading a would-be championship team.

It was a role that Williams repeatedly played down, even as blacks nationwide were gearing up for today's celebration of the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. A strange season took another odd turn when longtime television sports analyst Jimmy (The Greek) Snyder was fired from his job at CBS for telling an interviewer that blacks had been "bred" to be better athletes than whites.

For some fans, Snyder's comments underscored the legacy of King while reinforcing Williams' image as a role model.

"For a long time in football, there was this feeling that blacks had the brawn but not the brains," said Redskins fan Charlie Cobb, his voice straining over the crowd noises at Hazel's on Columbia Road NW. "Now young black boys can say, 'I want to be like Doug Williams.' "

"Doug motivates the black community," said James Lesane as he watched the game at Mike's bar and liquor store on Indian Head Highway in Forest Heights. "He's in a position blacks are not supposed to be able to play. But Doug's cool and collected. He gets the job done."

Other fans, though, shared Williams' view that color is less important than performance. At Takoma Station on upper Fourth Street NW, owner Boyd, a longtime D.C. resident and Redskins fan, calmly served up plates of free spaghetti to a few customers while, on the television screen overhead, the Redskins teetered between greatness and catastrophe.

"I used to watch the games when {former Redskins quarterback} Sonny Jurgensen was out there, his stomach hanging over his belt," Boyd said. "I just love the Redskins."

And down Georgia Avenue at Faces restaurant, manager O'Dell Wylie and customer Tom Sligh scoffed at questions about the color of the quarterback. They were too busy with a last-minute Vikings drive at the goal line.

"If Doug Williams starts throwing interceptions, I'd want them to get his rear end out of there, too," Sligh said.

"If you score a touchdown now, I'm going to kill myself!" Wylie suddenly shouted at the Vikings huddling on the television screen. "I'm going to throw myself out of my basement apartment!"