CHRIS Dagnall bagged two goals as the resurgent Reds stormed into the FA Cup quarter-finals with a commanding victory at League One Milton Keynes.
The Reds faithful are now dreaming of another Wembley semi-final appearance five years after their last one as Marlon Harewood was also on target in a game packed with incident.
But the game was marred by an ugly end which saw Reds boss David Flitcroft engaged in a heated exchange with an MK Dons fan who allegedly made a derogatory comment and gesture.
The comment was reportedly aimed at former Blackpool and Aston Villa striker Harewood.
The spectator was interviewed by police and Thames Valley Police said they had no evidence that the gesture was of a racist nature.
After the game a furious Flitcroft said: “I’m trying to build a family atmosphere; someone had a go at one of my players and I responded in the heat of the moment. It is being investigated.”
MK Dons have pledged to continue monitoring footage of the area where the alleged incident took place.
Stephen Foster, Ben Alnwick, Harewood, Danny Rose, Tomasz Cywka, Jim O’Brien were sat on the Barnsley bench at the time.
A joint statement from both clubs said: “The spectator in question has been interviewed by police. Currently Thames Valley police have no evidence to suggest the alleged gesture was of a racist nature.
“Both Barnsley Football Club and MK Dons Football Club are committed to making football a family environment and will not tolerate abusive or aggressive behaviour of any nature.”
The incident unfortunately overshadowed another fine performance from the improving Reds.
It’s now seven wins from the last eight league and cup games for the club and Flitcroft was quick to salute the travelling fans who roared their charges on from the first minute to the last.
Flitcroft, who has guided the Reds to an amazing turnaround in fortunes since taking over permanently from the sacked Keith Hill, said: “It was a really special day again.
“There were 3,700 fans in the ground from Barnsley and I know a result like this means everything to them. They are really buying into this amazing adventure now, this journey that we’re currently on.
“Every day I’m still learning. I still miss Keith Hill but I’ve been given this incredible opportunity and I’m determined to grab it with both hands. To reach the last eight in one of the most special tournaments in world football means so much to me, the fans, the players and everyone involved at the club.”
The Reds’ big cup day saw boss Flitcroft make three changes to his starting 11 despite the previous weekend’s superb Championship win at Middlesbrough.
One alteration came at the back as Scott Wiseman took his place on the right side of the back three in place of Foster.
Across the middle Hassell came in for a start in place of Rory Delap, while Jacob Mellis also stepped up from the bench to replace Jim O’Brien.
Foster, Delap and O’Brien were among the substitutes, a group which also included recent scoring sensation Jason Scotland.
The first half was a joy to watch from a Reds point of view.
Flitcroft’s men dominated and surged into a two-goal interval lead as they left Karl Robinson’s Dons chasing shadows.
Dagnall grabbed the first goal after just two minutes and 23 seconds.
Mellis played a through-ball straight down the middle, Dagnall latched on to it, took one touch, and then coolly slotted an angled shot past keeper David Martin.
Five minutes later Dagnall almost doubled his tally with a similar effort following Kelvin Etuhu’s measured pass, but he blazed over.
No matter - the Reds stormed into a two-goal lead in the 19th minute. This time Wiseman stormed down the right flank and got to the byline, before neatly pulling a low cross back into the path of Harewood who expertly guided a low shot past Martin to notch his third goal of the season.
It almost looked like ‘game over’ at half-time with the Reds so dominant, but the hosts stormed back into contention on the hour mark when Darren Potter played in Dean Bowditch and the former Ipswich hitman slid a shot past Luke Steele to make it 2-1.
Maybe the Reds players had been affected by a sickening collision minutes earlier as Etuhu clashed heads with Dons sub Adam Chicksen.
There had been a lengthy delay as the stricken Etuhu was treated before being stretchered off with blood all over his face.
Former Manchester United, Leeds and England striker Alan Smith forced a breathtaking close range stop from Steele, but the Reds were resolute in the closing stages.
In the second of 12 added minutes following the awful Etuhu injury, Barnsley sealed their cup passage.
Perkins’ slide-rule pass found Dagnall and he had time to round Martin before joyously slotting his eighth goal of the season into an unguarded net as the Reds faithful went wild.
Smith was red-carded three minutes later after an ugly lunge on sub Delap and that led to Flitcroft’s angry exchange with the spectator and the involvement of the police.