In a nail-bitter of an episode, local designer Anthony Ryan Auld just barely escaped elimination in Thursday night’s “Project Runway.”

The 28-year-old LSU alum, who had been riding high in the design competition for the past few weeks, landed in the bottom two in a challenge where the contestants had to create an outfit to go with a new line of sneakers judge Heidi Klum has produced with New Balance.

Klum told a pale-looking Auld that had it been up to her alone, he would have been eliminated from the competition.

Judges Michael Kors and, in particular, Nina Garcia came to Auld’s defense. “He’s got more promise as a designer,” said Garcia, arguing for Auld to be kept in the competition over Danielle Everine, who ulitmately was dismissed.

Auld, who earlier in the episode said he was not feeling well, broke down in tears on the runway after learning he was safe.

For this week’s challenge, the 12 remaining designers were divided into teams of four each. The drama started early in the show when designer Cecilia Motwani withdrew from the competition. The remaining designers had to run 200 meters around a track, with the top four finishers designated as team leaders. Auld, a cross-country runner in high school, finished third

And that’s where the trouble started. None of the other team leaders chose Bert Keeter, who, at 57, is the oldest designer in the competition, and, in past weeks, has proven to be the most difficult to get work with. Keeter ended up on Auld’s team, along with Laura Kathleen, with whom Auld had won an earlier challenge.

Their team battled throughout the challenge, and were still fighting to the last minute on the runway, with Auld and Keeter accusing each other of lying. Their team’s three-piece collection ended up among the judges’ least favorites.

The judges were especially critical of Auld, as was the designer himself, who called his two-piece ensemble a “hot mess.”

Garcia told Auld his outfit looked like pajamas, and Kors said he had achieved the impossible: “Shorts that are big and tight at the same time.”

The winners of Thursday’s challenge -- Viktor Luna and Joshua McKinley -- will have their designs produced for Klum’s New Balance line and sold on