TAMPA, OCT. 21 -- Michael Irvin felt like himself again. He played like the big-play wide receiver the Dallas Cowboys expect him to be.

His 28-yard catch with 23 seconds left set off a wild end-zone celebration today reminiscent of his college days at Miami and gave the Cowboys their second victory, 17-13, over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in three weeks.

On the decisive drive, Troy Aikman completed three passes for 60 yards and scrambled once for 20 yards. Two weeks ago, he directed a 14-10 victory over Tampa Bay (4-3) but didn't think Dallas (3-4) earned the respect it deserved.

"All week long {the Buccaneers} were saying we were just lucky to win, and that they were a much better team," Aikman said. "They weren't giving us any credit, and that was on our minds."

Irvin missed the last 10 games of 1989 and the first four weeks this season recovering from knee surgery. Until he caught a 14-yard pass to begin Dallas's decisive march, he didn't have a reception in 1990.

"To tell you the truth, there really wasn't any pressure on me," Irvin said. "It's a situation I enjoy being in. That's where I get my nickname, 'The Playmaker.' . . . I just said, 'Get it to me, get it to me,' and he did. Troy made a perfect pass."

The game-winning catch came only 1:33 after Steve Christie's 32-yard field goal appeared to thwart the Cowboys' effort to overcome a 10-0 halftime deficit and win in their first-ever appearance here.

Issiac Holt returned one of his two interceptions off Vinny Testaverde 64 yards for a touchdown that made it 10-10, and Aikman's calm under pressure on the last drive helped the Cowboys remain one of eight teams that have never lost to Tampa Bay, regular season or playoffs.

Aikman tossed 14 yards to Irvin and 18 to Jay Novacek, then ran 20 to the 28 with 31 seconds to go.

After a timeout, Irvin ran past cornerback Rodney Rice to the left corner of the end zone, where he made his big catch just beyond the reach of safety Mark Robinson. Several Cowboys joined him in a celebration that drew a penalty.

Testaverde -- sacked five times -- left with a toe injury on the drive that produced the Bucs' 13-10 lead with 1:56 left. Chris Chandler set up the go-ahead field goal with a 23-yard completion on his first pass.

In all nine of the NFL's two-game series concluded so far this year, the same team has won both times.