Barnsley eased themselves to within just four points of the Sky Bet League One play-off places as they deservedly saw off Colchester at Oakwell last night.
The Reds pocketed their third straight victory in league and cup as all the players put in a terrific shift to keep out the gutsy visitors.
Reds boss Danny Wilson made just the couple of enforced changes to his starting line-up, with Aussie Ryan Williams and Italian Marcello Trotta away on international duty.
Kane Hemmings and Devante Cole were drafted back into the starting XI to partner the in-form Sam Winnall in a three-pronged attack, and within three minutes the manager’s adventurous approach paid rich dividends.
The clearly determined Hemmings did well to work an opening for Winnall, and the confident hit-man did the rest, drilling home low past ‘keeper Sam Walker from 12 yards to register his sixth goal in just four games, and his ninth of the campaign overall.
It didn’t take long for the visitors - themselves on a decent run, having lost just once in five games under Tony Humes - to respond, however.
They levelled after 14 minutes courtesy of a slightly deflected effort from Sanchez Watt, who met George Moncur’s cross at the far post and squeezed a shot past Ross Turnbull from 10 yards.
The Reds continued to control the game in the opening quarter despite being pegged back, and they did have the ball in the back of the U’s net again after 25 minutes.
A linesman’s flag curtailed celebrations, though, after Peter Ramage had headed home Conor Hourihane’s deep cross.
At the other end Turnbull was forced to produce an acrobatic save to keep out Freddie Sears’ piledriver, but it didn’t take the Reds long to regain the initiative and Winnall fluffed a great chance to make it 2-1 just before the break when he somehow scooped over the top from six yards.
The Reds did regain their advantage 10 minutes after the restart, though, when the lightning-fast Cole surged into the U’s box and once he drew a challenge from behind from skipper Sean Clohessy, it was a clear penalty.
Up stepped Hourihane, with the confident midfielder easily beating Walker to notch his 10th goal of the season.
Moncur tested the alertness of Turnbull as the visitors attempted a rapid response, but they soon ran out of steam and Wilson’s men were faced with half-an-hour in which to try and hang on to their precious lead.
Never mind hanging on. the Reds went on to make it 3-1 after 70 minutes.
This time the hugely impressive Hourihane turned provider, with his floated corner-kick being positively thumped home by centre-back Ramage, who wasn’t to be denied this time.
The Oakwell faithful rejoiced wildly, but the U’s were right back in it four minutes later when Sears lashed home from 15 yards to reduce the arrears.
It looked like the Reds may have been in for a testing final 15 minutes, but they got home with few further scares.
Barnsley: Turnbull; Cranie, Nyatanga, Ramage, Dudgeon; Berry, Hourihane, Bailey; Hemmings (Jennings 83), Winnall (Bree 90), Cole.
Subs not used: Davies, Brown, Treacy, M’voto, Lita.
colchester United: Walker; Clohessy, Eastman, O’Donoghue, Hewitt; Moncur, Fox (Szmodics 85), Gilbey; Sears, Massey (Healey 71), Watt (Roofe 77).
Subs not used: Lewington, Gordon, Eastmond, Harney.