IT started with an SOS, but by the final whistle the winner had taken it all and everyone in Barnsley had a dream.
News of ABBA’s shock reunion may still be reverberating around the world, but Reds supporters were wallowing in their own nostalgia at another dramatic and unexpected comeback, with rifts also being healed following a fair bit of acrimony.
After a week of discord at Barnsley the post-match harmony was the sweetest of refrains come Saturday tea-time. A time to express gratitude and then probably go for a lie-down.
The latest example of the Championship’s wonderful, beguiling capacity for the unexpected arrived at Oakwell and what a thoroughly pleasant surprise it was.
The pre-match mood may have been funereal, but the occasion ended in a party as opposed to a wake with a joyous mini-pitch invasion, backslaps all around and defiant chants of ‘The Reds are staying up’ reverberating at the end.
Funny old game, funny old week and all roads now lead to Derby County next Sunday.
That Barnsley could now even afford to lose at Pride Park next week and possibly still survive in the Championship, if events so conspire, is a staggering thought in itself.
They had started Saturday with grave and very real fears of relegation if they lost to a buoyant, play-off-chasing side in Brentford and Bolton Wanderers won at Burton Albion.
It remains to be seen what transpires in the final instalment of the most compelling, unpredictable division in world football, but, for the moment, there is hope at Barnsley.
For head coach Jose Morais, this was a relieving end to a thoroughly troubled week.
Pilloried after two damaging defeats that had seen support in his short reign rapidly dissolve among the Reds’ faithful, the Portuguese – a proud, emotional man – spoke from the heart after Saturday’s remarkable events before preparing to enjoy a drink with friends at the end of a distressing, pained seven days. Few would have begrudged him that.
The pre-match talk before the game was of farewells, with Oli McBurnie, awarded the Reds’ player-of-the-year accolade after just 15 games for the club, making his final home appearance alongside fellow loanees Gary Gardner and Connor Mahoney.
The occasion was also highly likely to be an Oakwell swansong for Andy Yiadom, recalled and handed the captain’s armband again after being jettisoned from the squad in midweek, and, quite possibly, Adam Hammill.
All of the aforementioned players ensured the day was a special one to savour both for themselves and their team-mates.
A performance rich in character, perspiration and pride was all the more laudable given Tuesday’s feeble display in Nottingham that saw “11 scared boys” take to the field in the damning words of Reds’ chief executive officer Gauthier Ganaye.
This time around it was those in Brentford colours who choked as their play-off quest was obliterated against a team of pumped-up men who picked the perfect moment to produce arguably their most convincing performance of a fraught campaign.
Whatever Barnsley’s motivation was it worked as it must do also for one last time in Derby.
For Morais, chastised for his controversial selection in midweek, there was professional pleasure in seeing his calls pay off this time around, with the promotions of Yiadom, Mahoney, Zeki Fryers and Ethan Pinnock all bearing fruit.
Hammill’s stationing in a No 10 role also worked a treat.
Ticks in the box were plentiful with a first clean sheet in 12 matches and first at Oakwell since January 13 ranking fairly highly, with young goalkeeper Jack Walton – making his home debut – protected resolutely.
Brentford possessed polish early on, but the Reds regrouped and had something to hang onto thanks to Kieffer Moore’s fortuitous 11th-minute opener.
Some optimists suggested the striker’s speculative cross-shot from the left flank was no fluke. Not too many were convinced of that, but the sight of the net bulging after the effort went in off the far post was all that mattered for the hosts.
The Bees refused to panic and passed the ball around with purpose, but met an obstinate opponent who were not to be moved. Defensive resolve was striking, summed up by one fine saving tackle from Liam Lindsay to deny Ollie Watkins.
That all-important second goal that has so often eluded the Reds on home soil this term arrived early in the second half when McBurnie’s downward header crept over the line from Hammill’s deep corner.
Moore, off target with a good headed opportunity in the first half, spurned a golden chance to kill the game with the goal at his mercy, scooping over after Mahoney’s effort was parried by Dan Bentley, but it did not matter.
Brentford’s fire was out and their season over, but not that of Barnsley.