A STORMING fightback in the last ten minutes from Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Town denied the Reds three precious survival points - as they suffered late anguish for the second weekend running.
Leading 2-0 after 73 minutes, thanks to a fine 12th-minute opener from top-scorer Chris O’Grady and a deflected free-kick from sub Tomasz Cywka sixteen minutes from time, Barnsley were set fair for just their third home victory of the season, only for the visitors to rally superbly.
A close-range effort from Christophe Berra, who bundled home after Jim O’Brien blocked Tommy Smith’s header on the line following Paul Anderson’s corner on 81 minutes set up a grandstand finish.
Three minutes later, a stinging free-kick from David McGoldrick, his 16th goal of a productive season, which also took a deflection, restored parity.
Ipswich almost grabbed a winner two minutes from time with a goalbound effort from sub Paul Green, making his debut after entering the fray, blocked by Martin Cranie.
That the visitors claimed reward for their efforts was without dispute with McCarthy’s side thoroughly dominant in a one-sided second half, which saw the Reds score off their only meaningful chance.
Prior to netting, a combination of poor finishing, near misses and alert goalkeeping from Luke Steele denied them, but they were not to be thwarted.
Ipswich manager McCarthy, who turned 55 on Friday, was no doubt hoping for a belated birthday present on his return to his hometown club who he played for 272 times between 1977 and 1983, but it was the Reds who made the better start.
And it really should have yielded an opener on ten minutes when Stephen Dawson dispossessed Stephen Hunt before slipping the ball invitingly to O’Grady, who with time in the box and plenty of the goal to aim at, steered a tame shot wastefully wide.
But just two minutes later, the Reds’ top-scorer got himself immediately back in the Oakwell faithful’s good books with a superbly-conjured opener.
Enterprising play from bucaneering full-back Jack Hunt picked out O’Grady, who spun adroitly to evade Tommy Smith on the right hand side of the 18-yard box before firing in a precision low shot on the turn which crept into the bottom corner, past the stationary Dean Gerken.
It was fair reward for an encouraging opening from the Reds, who flattered to deceive with a limp first-half performance last time out at Oakwell against Blackburn Rovers.
Second-best early on, Town - with just one league defeat on their travels in their previous 11 Championship outings - burst into life on 17 minutes and were inches away from leveller.
Awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position after a foul by the recalled Stephen Dawson on Stephen Hunt, Aaron Cresswell took aim with a delicious curler, which struck the woodwork with Luke Steele beaten.
A cross with Stephen Hunt then fizzed across the Reds’ box with the home defence momentarily stretched before at the other end, Cresswell blocked a fiercely-struck low shot from Jim O’Brien after trickery on the left from the impressive Dale Jennings.
For the remainder of the half, the Reds, showing a terrific work ethic, held sway although they suffered a minor scare when ex-Barnsley loanee Frank Nouble nicked the ball off O’Grady in midfield before charging towards goal, only for his weak shot to be gathered easily by Steele.
A more presentable chance arrived two minutes before the break when Smith powered a header wide after pressure following a well-flighted Stephen Hunt corner, but overall, it was definitely the Reds’ half.
The Reds made an interval change with Cywka replacing the ineffectual Brek Shea with the first threatening moment belonging to the East Anglians, courtesy of a meandering run from Stephen Hunt, but Steele was alert to the danger and came out to gather.
A neat move involving McGoldrick and Cresswell ended with Jay Tabb firing over before, on 53 minutes, Town went mighty close to restoring parity when a snapshot from Cole Skuse whistled just wide.
The former Bristol City player then spurned another opportunity after a fine run and cross from the increasingly influential Stephen Hunt, whose low cross across the box, wasn’t gathered by Steele, with Skuse pouncing on the rebound before blazing over under pressure.
The Reds’ goal was starting to lead a charmed life with McCarthy’s side spurning another opportunity when sub Paul Anderson, on for Nouble, arrived unchecked in the box after a pinpoint delivery from Stephen Hunt, but his volley lacked direction and flew off target to the relief of the home defence and supporters.
The pressure continued with Ipswich taking a real stranglehold on proceedings, with the sharp instincts of Steele saving the day twice in quick succession.
The Reds’ custodian beat away a 20-yarder from Daryl Murphy before blocking Anderson’s rebound as the Tractor Boys piled on the pressure.
A rare counter from Barnsley saw O’Brien fire wildly over before a timely clearing header from Tom Kennedy averted the danger after a cracking cross from Cresswell, with the Reds hanging on for dear life at this stage.
Dictating play with an excellent tempo, Town continued to press with the Reds’ rearguard having to work overtime with the visitors camping in the hosts’ own half and threateing to lay siege.
But oit of nothing, with their first genuine opportunity of the half, the Reds doubled their tally out of nothing.
A rasping free-kick on the left from Cywka arrowed past Gerken, taking a deflection off a player in the Ipswich wall along the way, in a touch of fortune for the Reds.
But Town gave themselves a lifeline in the 81st minute shortly after Smith had gone close with a header.
From the resulting corner from Anderson, another header from Smith was blocked on the line by O’Brien, with Berra dispatching the follow-up from close in.
With the hosts creaking, Stephen Hunt almost turned in a fine cross from Murphy, but Ipswich afforded no let-up with McGoldrick firing in a free-kick six minutes from time, with the aid of a deflection to make it 2-2.
A key block from home captain Cranie denied Green with Dawson shooting at Gerken at the other end as the game ended with honours apiece.
Barnsley: Steele; J Hunt (Woods 73), Ramage, Cranie, Kennedy; Shea (Cywka 46), Dawson, O’Brien, Jennings; O’Grady, Proschwitz (Lawrence 77). Subs not used: Turner, Nyatanga, McCourt, Pedersen.
Gerken, Chambers; Smith, Berra, Cresswell; Tabb, Skuse (Green 73), S Hunt; Nouble (Anderson 52), McGoldrick, Murphy. Subs not used: Loach, Edwards, Wordsworth, Mings, Green, Richardson.
Referee: D Bond (Lancs).
Attendance: 9,929 (817 Ipswich supporters).