Jose Morais admits Barnsley must beat Nottingham Forest on Tuesday after Paul Heckingbottom’s Leeds dealt a blow to their survival hopes.
The Reds went into the Yorkshire derby buoyed by nicking a late point against relegation rivals Bolton but they were unable to pick up a crucial victory at Elland Road.
Goals from young left-back Tom Pearce - his first in professional football - and Gjanni Alioski gave Leeds a 2-1 win, only their third in the Championship this year.
Paudie O’Connor’s own goal brought Barnsley level before the break but they were unable to find another equaliser, with the result leaving the Reds two points from safety ahead of their midweek game in hand.
“It’s between us and the teams close to us in this moment,” said Morais.
“Bolton is the team that is closest and my belief is that we have definitely to win the next game, which is the game we have less than the others.
“Winning this game we will be in a good position and after that is to control in terms of making the same results as the teams that we are in a direct fight with.
“Tuesday is a must-win game, definitely.”
Substitute Kieffer Moore missed a golden opportunity late on when he failed to tap into an empty net and Adam Hammill was booked for diving in the box following a challenge from Matthew Pennington, a decision Morais questioned.
“A result where you miss opportunities to make a different score, you are expecting more,” he said.
“A result where a foul was supposed to be given in order for you to get a penalty, it’s possible to say I was expecting more.
“We should have had a penalty, but the referee gave a yellow card to my player.
“It was a decisive moment that we should have been rewarded with a penalty. I’ve seen it already on the video and it was a penalty.”
Heckingbottom - the subject of much attention before and during the match following his sudden move from Barnsley to Leeds in February - did not attend the post-match press conference, with assistant Jamie Clapham standing in.
“The game summed up our season,” said Clapham.
“The first 15, 20 minutes we were exceptional - we played really fast and were on the front foot.
“Then we got the goal and for some unknown reason we just switched off and they managed to get in the game.
“We were getting so much wrong and it was all about us, they didn’t change what they were doing.
“You can see the equaliser was coming for them and then at half-time we had to have strong words.
“We got the goal and controlled large periods again then. Towards the end it was a real battle and we had to man up and do everything you need to get results.
“It’s fantastic for our players and full credit to them.”
On Heckingbottom’s absence from post-game duties, Clapham joked: “He might have injured himself and couldn’t get up the stairs.
“It was always something we discussed when we came in here, that I’d come up for this game and do it.”