TOM BRADSHAW came off the bench to score a dramatic 88th minute winner to settle a pulsating South Yorkshire derby and give Barnsley’s hopes of avoiding relegation a massive boost.
It was only the Reds’ third win in 26 games but how they deserved it after falling 2-1 behind in the second period but showing great courage against promotion-chasing Sheffield United.
Just as the Blades seemed set to get on top, Oliver McBurnie levelled in the 74th minute when following in Adam Hammill’s long-range shot, only parried by Simon Moore.
Then, after United missed two chances to regain the lead, man-of-the-match Kieffer Moore produced a brilliant cross for Bradshaw to head home his 12th of the season and send Barnsley’s fans ecstatic.
United had been well below par in the first period, Barnsley fully deserving to be 1-0 ahead after a brilliant 20 yard drive from Gary Gardner in the 25th minute.
The midfielder was left free near the edge of the box at a corner and when the ball arrived he dispatched it superbly into the top corner.
However, United boss Chris Wilder made a bold move before the break, hauling off Wales midfielder Lee Evans to bring veteran striker Billy Sharp on alongside captain Leon Clarke.
Although there was no breakthrough initially, in the second period Blades came out looking transformed.
They created a hatful of chances only for resilient Barnsley to keep denying them.
However, Fleck finally made the breakthrough when the hosts, for once, failed to clear and he unleashed as thunderous left-footed drive from just inside the penalty box in the 57th minute.
United turned up the heat, Adam Jackson desperately blocking Sharp again, but Barnsley cracked once more in the 65th minute.
Fleck’s vision from deep saw him roll the ball through for Clarke who, though denied by keeper Adam Davies, was given a second chance when Barnsley failed to clear adequately.
He didn’t miss, the captain blasting in his 17th league goal of the season.
But Barnsley refused to yield and gained a crucial victory to help in their bid to escape the bottom three.
They started positively and, in fairness, never let up during the first period.
Bright and purposeful with the ball, they also worked tirelessly in defence and showed far more urgency than their rivals.
George Moncur, who bossed midfield, had a fine curling shot the crossbar as early as the fifth minute by which time Moore had also had a free header, the striker failing to make a clean contact from six yards out.
John Lundstram should have opened the scoring for the Blades, though, having been worked in courtesy of a fine one-two with Clarke but his finish was woeful.
That meant it was the Reds who went ahead with Gardner’s stunning effort and Chris Wilder soon was forced to change tact removing Evans.
Sharp pepped them up slightly; Adam Jackson did just enough to put him off from six yards out after a quality low cross from Chris Basham and then Barnsley scrambled again to deny the former Doncaster Rovers forward when he had another effort a little further out.
At the start of the second period, Moore wasted a great chance to double the hosts’ lead but - with United keeper Simon Moore stranded after flying out from his line - the striker unsuccessfully tried going for the empty goal when Moncur was far better placed.
Lloyd Isgrove was put clear, too, but after this time finding Moncur, the midfielder slipped at the vital moment and saw his shot blocked.
United’s confidence grew, playing with far more verve in attack, and the pressure began to increase.
Liam Lindsay, a rock at the back for Barnsley, had to stand firm to make a crucial intervention just as Sharp seemed set to fire from close range but there was no stopping Fleck’s effort.
It seemed that would be the start of positive things for United but their rivals responded brilliantly.
Barnsley: Davies; Yiadom, Jackson, Lindsay, Fryers; Potts, Gardner, Moncur (Bradshaw 69), Isgrove (Hammill 60), McBurnie (Cavare 90); Moore.
Sheffield United: Moore; Baldock, Fleck, O’Connell, Stevens; Lundstrum, Basham, Wright (Wilson 89), Evans (Sharp 38), Brooks (Duffy 49); Clark.