MISTAKES, mistakes, mistakes. If only Barnsley could cut them out.
Once again the Reds were undone by some poor play and punished accordingly. They have now not won at home for nearly three months.
But such is the fighting spirit established under boss Keith Hill the hosts could have emerged from this battle with a point to savour against opponents who climbed to the top of the Championship with their third win in a row.
Cardiff scored from two corners after keeper Luke Steele had twice denied the visitors with fine saves.
Jacob Mellis pulled a goal back with 14 minutes remaining and the Reds had two decent penalty shouts turned down.
Hill’s men had a minute of normal time and four minutes of injury time to still get something with Cardiff reduced to ten men when debutant Simon Lappin was sent off for a second yellow card.
But the Lancastrian refused to moan about his side’s lack of luck at the death and instead stressed the need to get some much-needed points on board with his team now hovering precariously just one point above the relegation zone.
“The pressure is obviously there, but it’s been there from the beginning of the season. You’ve got to accept that,” said Hill.
“We need points because we’re running out of games. We need to stay above that [relegation] line.
“We need points to keep some sort of distance from the bottom three.
“The bottom three is a trap-door. We’ve not been in it, but we could go in on Tuesday [if we lose to Burnley at home].
“But that’s not pressure. Pressure is the consequence of a life-threatening disease or being out of work. This was just a football match.
“I’m pretty cool about the situation. It’s a fight, but I’m enjoying it.”
Defender Ben Nugent’s 22nd-minute header from Peter Whittingham’s inswinging corner gave the visitors the lead, before midfielder Gunnarsson doubled the Bluebirds’ advantage six minutes after the restart. Again Whittingham was the provider as the unmarked Icelander headed beyond the helpless Steele.
Hill said: “Luke Steele produced two magnificent saves. It was an outstanding performance and he really should have been looking at a clean sheet.
“But from the resulting corner-kicks two players don’t do their jobs.
“It’s as simple as that, let’s not confuse anybody here.
“We were more than aware of their threats from set-plays, but prior to this game we haven’t conceded one goal from corner-kicks.
“The players have got to reflect the belief and trust that I have in them in their decision-making. Decisions will cost you or win you games.
“We didn’t get a penalty; we can’t belly-ache about the referee.
“I thought we were excellent in our pursuit of an equaliser, but we really shouldn’t have been two goals down because of corner-kicks.”
Hill handed former Manchester United and Fulham midfielder Jonathan Greening his home debut with winger Jim O’Brien dropped to the bench, with fellow loan signings Emile Sinclair and Akos Buzsaky included in the 18-man squad.
But it was the Welsh side who had the better of the opening chances and whom went close through Joe Mason and Craig Noone.
Then some slack defending from skipper Scott Wiseman nearly led to the opener. The centre-back was caught out trying to play offside and Mason burst forward and was denied a goal only by a brilliant one-handed save from Steele.
The danger, however, had not passed as Wiseman and fellow centre-back Jimmy McNulty were nowhere as Nugent was allowed to head home under no pressure in his first league start for Cardiff.
Leading scorer Craig Davies had a long-range shot blocked and midfielder Stephen Dawson fluffed his lines in a similar position to which he scored his first Reds goal earlier in the season.
David Marshall denied Davies a minute before the break with an excellent block and then three minutes after the break Mellis had a shot tipped past a post by the alert keeper.
Martin Cranie, who switched with Wiseman from right-back to centre-back, carelessly lost the ball in his own box two minutes later and Steele produced a superb close-range block to palm away Heidar Helguson’s goalbound strike.
But in an almost copycat move Cardiff scored their second from a corner, this time Gunnarsson allowed to double the lead.
Helguson headed over soon after, while the introduction of Buzsaky and Reuben Noble-Lazarus sparked the Reds into life. It was the first time the Barnsley supporters got vocal as they roared their team on to try and get something out of the contest.
Buzsaky had a drive saved by Marshall before Steele saved well from Mason and then Kim Bo-Kyung lashed the rebound across the face of goal.
Wiseman made some amends for his earlier error when he picked out Mellis with a floated cross and the former Chelsea midfielder poked into the bottom right corner for his third goal of the campaign.
Mellis and left-back Scott Golbourne both went down in the box following strong challenges as the Reds failed to win a penalty, before Norwich City loanee Lappin was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence.
There was still time to get an equaliser but the visitors held firm with the Reds having now not won at home since September 1 when they beat Bristol City 1-0.
The results need to come - and they must come soon.