A win for either would keep their outside play-off hopes alive, but they had to settle for a point each from an enthralling South Yorkshire derby.
Both sides started well in bright sunshine, playing the ball with pace on a surface which looked superb.
Barnsley’s Ashley Fletcher looked a constant danger to United’s three centre-halves, with Billy Sharp teaming up well with Che Adams for the Blades strike partnership.
Reds goalkeeper Adam Davies was nearly caught out by a lofty cross, but when the ball came out to Ryan Flynn, the ball bounced too high for the Blades midfielder and the visitors swept up the danger.
Sharp then had to stretch for a cross-field pass and could not divert the ball on target.
At the other end George Long had to be alert to thwart Adam Hammill after some neat passing set the Barnsley winger free inside the box.
United twice came close to scoring inside two minutes.
First Davies dropped a cross at the feet to Matt Done, but his goal-bound effort was cleared by Marc Roberts.
Then a rasping shot from Che Adams was deflected into the post by Davies as United searched for an opening.
Fletcher did have the ball in United’s goal, but Sam Winnall was penalised for tugging back a United defender.
Barnsley started the second half with some sustained pressure, but were unable to test Long.
The majority of the 23,307 - United’s biggest crowd of the season - were on their feet when Chris Basham’s header caused panic in Barnsley’s penalty area but Sharp was unable to latch on to the loose ball.
Hammill should have done better, when in space, but drilled his shot wide, while Davies had to rush out of his box and head clear from a lurking Sharp.
It was end-to-end with both sides knowing a draw was of little use to either side.
Substitute Conor Sammon went close to a dramatic late winner, following an Alex Baptiste break, but his close-range effort was blocked by the Tykes defence.
Blades boss Nigel Adkins admitted it was a match his side “needed” to win. The draw leaves United four points behind Barnsley, who occupy sixth place, with two games remaining.
“It was an old-fashioned derby and both teams needed to win the game,” said Adkins.
“That’s our fourth clean sheet in five games, but we needed to get the victory.
“Their goalkeeper has made a great save from Che Adams in the first half, we have put balls into the box but maybe not of the quality that we needed.
“We just needed to win the game. We just maybe lacked that little bit of quality.
“It was competitive, I thought we finished strong, while they were looking to hit us on the counter-attack.”
The point was enough for Barnsley to leapfrog Gillingham in the table.
Reds boss Paul Heckingbottom said: “We felt we got in lots of good positions on the counter but didn’t capitalise on them.
“We just challenged the players in there, we’ve told them what a massive point it is and how well they’ve done with their work-rate and commitment, we can’t ask for anymore, but we’ve laid down a challenge that in games like that we need to be better with the ball.
“If we had been five to ten percent better with the ball we would have won the game.”
Sheff Utd: Long, Baptiste, Edgar, McEveley, Coutts, Basham,
Hammond, Flynn, Done, Sharp, Adams. Subs: Howard, Woolford,
Sammon, Calvert-Lewin, McGahey, Cuvelier, Whiteman.
Barnsley: Davies, Scowen, Roberts, Mawson, George Williams,
Isgrove, Brownhill, Hourihane, Hammill, Winnall, Fletcher. Subs:
Nyatanga, McCourt, Townsend, Khan, Toney, Tuton, Chapman.
Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire)
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