With just three matches to play Barnsley remained deep in relegation trouble after today’s home defeat against Leeds United.
It was an electric atmosphere inside Oakwell ahead of the Reds’ penultimate home fixture of the season against their fierce Yorkshire rivals.
Noise bellowed from all four sides of the stadium, and the fans packing out the home stands were full of renewed hope, confidence, and maybe even expectancy as the Reds’ latest survival mission looks to be gathering momentum.
Tuesday’s massive victory at drop rivals Charlton fuelled the home faithful’s increased vigour, now that their team were only two points shy of the safety mark.
Ten points from the previous six games had given Wilson’s rescue bid renewed impetus of late.
And today the Reds hosted a team who were hardly on top form. Seven days earlier Leeds had laboured to an Elland Road victory against a Blackpool side who have slumped alarmingly into the relegation dogfight since the turn of the year. That followed a miserable run of five straight defeats and was only a second win in 13 games.
Leeds caught the first sight of goal, though thankfully unmarked midfielder Murphy blazed high and wide.
There was an edginess and nervousness among both sets of players early on, and that won’t have been helped when Jennings fluffed a similar opportunity at the other end, crashing a shot woefully over .
Steele was forced into the first save in the eighth minute, diving well to his right to pluck Smith’s header out of the air.
Etuhu had to be alert to block Murphy’s header just as the ball looked destined for the bottom corner.
It had been a shaky start from the hosts, and Leeds deservedly went in front in the 16th minute.
Smith headed confidently into the path of McCORMACK, who had time to steady himself before drilling low past Steele to register his 29th goal of the season.
Millwall were leading at Middlesbrough so the afternoon hadn’t started well for the Reds.
The atmosphere dimmed alarmingly but the players stuck gutsily at their task.
They were soon pushing forward hunting a quick response when Lawrence was fouled 25 yards from goal. However, Cywka’s free-kick was blocked . The Polish front-man claimedthe ball had struck a Leeds hand, with the referee was unmoved.
The Reds twice went close within a minute. Lawrence ought to have done better when he drilled a low shot wide, while Jennings leapt well to meet Kennedy’s cross, only to see a looping header plucked easily out of the air by former Reds ‘keeper Butland. The Reds came close again as Cywka volleyed narrowly wide
There were no changes for the start of the second period, and disappointingly no real upsurge in the tempo from Barnsley.
The sun was now beaming down on Oakwell, but the play was in desperate need of brightening up.
As the hour mark approached, frustration was clearly getting to boss Wilson, who was almost jumping up and down on the touchline as his team lost possession far too often.
Etuhu fizzed a shot wide, but it was a token effort. The Reds then survived a strong Leeds penalty claim when Brown’s cross from the left looked suspiciously to have been blocked by the arm of Lawrence.
Worryingly, Leeds began to look like they were coasting to victory. They almost bagged what would have been a killer second goal in the 63rd minute when McCormack pounced on a loose ball, only to crack a half-volley wastefully over from 12 yards.
Leeds’ leading scorer then expertly teed up Smith, but M’voto dived in to make a superbly-timed block on the edge of the six-yard box.
The Reds’ first decent chance of the second halfwent begging in the 69th minute.
Dawson did well to cross in on the turn, though Jennings’ firm header was comfortably saved by Butland. With 14 minutes to go and the Reds having not scored at base yet again, Wilson threw on Proschwitz to join O’Grady up front. Maybe that would add a bit of zest to the attack.
It was a midfielder who next threatened to claw back a desperately-needed point. Lawrence found himself in space just outside the box, but he curled a well-hit shot a foot the wrong side of the post.
With five minutes remaining a steady stream of home supporters were now heading for the exits.
The Championship dream isn’t over yet, but with three games left - the next two away at Derby on Monday and Middlesbrough next weekend - the Reds now face a Herculean task if they are to survive the drop.