CALAMITOUS Barnsley engineered their own downfall as a host of mistakes handed Nottingham Forest victory at Oakwell.
Despite taking the lead through former Forest man Marlon Harewood, the Reds simply lost their heads and lacked the confidence needed to end their winless home run.
A devastating 10-minute spell before half-time proved crucial, Forest scoring through Greg Halford, Simon Cox and Chris Cohen to take a 3-1 lead into the break.
Left stunned and embarrassed, the Reds then seemed unable to prevent their fifth game without a win at Oakwell. A 77th-minute strike from Jermaine Jenas only rubbed more salt into the gaping wounds.
In the absence of genuine positives, Reds boss Keith Hill hopes his players learned a harsh lesson to ensure there is no repeat performance at Hull on Saturday.
He said: “I have to be able to be forgiving of myself and the players and, if I’m not, we’ll be in serious trouble.
“The players have made some bad mistakes that have allowed the opposition to win the game. Mistakes were made in possession and not making mistakes in possession is normally something we’re very good at.
“The mistakes are inexplicable in a game we were winning.
“There aren’t too many positives I can take out of the game. It was an education for the players.”
It had been almost impossible to spot the collapse coming during a solid first half-hour.
Reds were handed an early opportunity when Radoslaw Majewski made a reckless challenge on Stephen Dawson on the edge of the area but Harewood blasted over the top from the free-kick.
Determined to make his mark against the club where he launched his professional career, Harewood got himself into a series of good positions.
But the big striker should have done better after breaking into the box on the right, scuffing the ball into touch as Matty Done waited in the centre.
Harewood’s moment finally came in 24th minute and it was fitting he should score his first goal of the season in this of all games.
A delightful one-two with Jacob Mellis allowed Harewood to race clear of the defence and he delicately danced around onrushing keeper Lee Camp before putting the ball into an empty net.
Harewood decided not to celebrate as a sign of respect but that didn’t stop the home faithful from finding full voice.
But that was as good as it got. Forest’s mastery of possession proved too much for the Reds to handle, although the first goal was somewhat fortunate.
Cutting in from the right flank, Halford hit a weak shot with the outside of his boot which deflected off Scott Wiseman to beat Ben Alnwick.
Number two followed seven minutes later and was a lot more impressive.
Billy Sharp sent Cohen away down the right flank and drifted into space 20 yards out to receive the return ball.
His shot was stopped at full stretch by Alnwick but the keeper could do nothing to stop Cox putting away the rebound.
Forest’s third goal was the most important and the most preventable.
A failure first to clear the ball properly and then to close down Cohen gave him the space he needed to rifle an unstoppable 20-yard shot into the corner of the net.
Reds were also slow out of the box in the second half, forcing Hill to tinker with his tactics, introducing substitutes Kelvin Etuhu, Tom Kennedy and Chris Dagnall in an attempt to improve his side’s attacking threat.
It worked to an extent and Kennedy forced Camp into a fingertip save with a low, left-footed free-kick that threatened to creep inside the post.
A series of dangerous crosses were flung into the area but neither Etuhu nor Harewood could provide a definitive touch despite their best efforts.
And Barnsley’s challenge was killed off when sub Jenas latched onto a through ball from Cox and highlighted his calibre by clipping a neat finish over Alnwick.
Forest boss Sean O’Driscoll pinpointed his side’s work ethic as the key to their response after slipping behind to Harewood’s goal.
He said: “I had Marlon last season and I always liked him. I always thought he was an honest player and it was a good finish by him.
“Regardless of the score, I thought our approach was good and our attitude was good; they all worked hard.
“Barnsley are a team who are able to pass the ball if you let them get fluid but we stopped them doing that.”