Supporters hailed the Reds at Oakwell, but it was relegation-threatened Barnsley and not promotion-chasing Middlesbrough, who were handed a bloody nose by a home side who belied their lowly league position with a fantastic team performance.
In the process, it secured back-to-back wins for the first time since last April. The Pontefract Road end sang ‘The Reds are staying up’ in the second half along with a chorus of Three Little Birds.
After recently downing QPR, Barnsley have now downed another high-flier in Boro. A Great Escape Mark Two anyone. If Barnsley replicate this performance regularly, you never know.
The damage was done early, courtesy of goals from Mads Andersen and Amine Bassi.
The latter added a second early in the second half in bizarre fashion and despite Boro throwing the kitchen sink at the hosts, with Andraz Sporar reducing the arrears with a penalty and Dael Fry netting with virtually the last kick of the game, it was Barnsley’s day.
A sell-out away following of 4,700 Boro fans arrived at Oakwell in expectation, even if many present would have realised that you never quite know what to expect at Barnsley, where the Teessiders’ record is a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly.
By half-time, a few justified jeers were audible after Boro were comprehensively bettered by a Barnsley side who were outstanding in every department and thoroughly merited their two-goal advantage.
Intensity and aggression in the press were the bywords for Barnsley’s best half of football at Oakwell for some time, against one of the division’s supposed big-hitters, to boot.
Boro badly missed the physicality of Matt Crooks, with Riley McGree also absent. Barnsley enjoyed a feast and gobbled up second balls galore in the battle ground, with Callum Styles and Domingos Quina superb and several others not far behind.
By contrast, Boro - who handed a first start since September 18 for loanee James Lea-Siliki - were all over the place.
Carlton Morris also caused no end of problems for Dael Fry and Paddy McNair, while Amine Bassi was also a real thorn in the side.
Barnsley’s first threat arrived when Morris’s downward volley was parried by Joe Lumley after enterprise from Styles.
Soon Barnsley would have their lead.
It came when Quina swept the ball to Bassi, given far too much space to float over a dangerous cross which was attacked by Andersen, who powered home a well-placed header.
Barnsley continued to hunt in packs and Boro weren’t at the races.
One became two when strong hold-up work from Morris unhinged Boro and he teed up Bassi, again given far too much space before firing home a low shot on the turn, which trickled past Lumley.
Seriously winded, Boro tried to get back into the game, with Isaiah Jones being their best outlet.
But their chances were token. Marcus Tavernier firing a low shot at Collins and Duncan Watmore unable to get a clean connection when well placed with Jones firing over moments before the interval lead.
Boro’s players trudged off to jeers, while expecting a few choice words from Wilder, who spoke about the importance of dressing-room attitude before the game.
The Boro chief did not mess about at the interval, bringing on Flo Balogun and Aaron Connolly for Lea-Siliki and Watmore. In truth, he could have brought off any number of players, with the visitors sent out early for the second half.
The narrative did not change, with the first chance on the resumption seeing Styles see his fierce shot fly into the midriff of Lumley.
Boro then started to ask some questions with Balogun rattling the near post after good work by Sporar. It provided a welcome and much-needed moment of encouragement from the big visiting support.
Sporar was then denied by a brilliant last-ditch tackle by Jordan Williams as he raced clear and the importance of that moment was magnified moments later.
Boro was soon undressed at the other end following Anfernee Dijksteel’s error and with Lumley in a lamentable position outside of his goal, Bassi won the fight for the loose ball with the backtracking Dijksteel and netted his second to the glee of the Pontefract Road end.
It was the prelude to some Boro fans heading for the exits early. But those who stuck with it continued to back their side and they were soon on their feet.
The Teessiders did eventually find a way back when Vita was penalised for a challenge on Jones in the box and Sporar coolly sent Collins the wrong way from the spot.
Boro finally pieced together meaningful pressure with Connolly shooting off target on the turn after Dijksteel’s cutback.
Connolly then had the ball in the net following fine work by McNair, only for the offside flag to thwart his celebrations.
Boro certainly improved from the restart, but Barnsley were still in decent order themselves and threatened on the break in particular.
Collins was called into action to keep out Tavernier’s swinging free-kick.
The pressure was sustained with Sporar glancing wide from an excellent centre from Caolan Boyd-Munce.
The finale saw Balogun go close when he smacked a shot against the post for a second time. It was not his or Boro’s day.
Fry netted from close in at the death, but it was too late.
Barnsley: Collins, Williams, Helik, Andersen, Vita (Kitching 68); Wolfe, Gomes; Quina, Bassi (Brittain 69), Styles; Morris (Cole 78). Substitutes unused: Walton, Benson, Palmer, Halme.
Middlesbrough: Lumley; McNair, Fry, Dijksteel; Jones, Howson, Lea-Siliki (Balogun 45), McNair, Tavernier, Taylor (Boyd-Munce 69); Sporar, Watmore (Connolly 45). Substitutes unused: Daniels, Peltier, Bamba, Coburn.
Referee: J Linington (Isle of Wight).
Attendance: 16,107 (4,740 Middlesbrough fans).