Barnsley suffered a damaging defeat as Nottingham Forest ran out 3-0 winners at the City Ground on Tuesday evening.
First half goals from Lee Tomlin and Ben Brereton were added to after the break by substitute Apostolos Vellios to seal victory for the hosts, and leave the Reds in the Championship relegation zone with just two games remaining.
José Morais gave a debut to Jack Walton, and the young goalkeeper was called upon inside 12 minutes as he got down brilliantly to tip Matty Cash’s shot wide of the post.
Tomlin then tried his luck from range with a dipping effort that Walton gathered easily as it bounced dangerously on the six-yard line.
Barnsley fashioned a chance of their own on 18 minutes when George Moncur weaved his way through the midfield and played a lovely ball for Adam Hammill, but the Reds’ winger curled his shot over the bar.
Moncur was then the architect once more as he danced past a couple of challenges, passed to Oli McBurnie who found Brad Potts with a first-time pass, but the energetic midfielder saw his low drive deflected behind for a corner.
However, it was the hosts who made the breakthrough when Tomlin let fly again from distance and curled an unstoppable strike into the far top corner, leaving Walton no chance.
The Forest midfielder almost had his second just after the half hour mark when he attempted an audacious overhead kick after the Reds failed to clear their lines, but Walton was equal to the effort.
Barnsley then broke quickly, and Potts played a delightful dummy for McBurnie who took aim for the bottom corner only to be denied by the diving Stefanos Kapino.
Walton was called into action once more to deny Adlene Guedioura who, like Tomlin earlier, tried his luck with an overhead kick, which the young stopper tipped wide.
But Forest dealt another sucker-punch nine minutes before the interval as Tomlin played an inch perfect through ball for Brereton, who rounded the onrushing Walton and slotted casually into the gaping net.
The Reds pushed forward for a way back into the game after the interval, and came close to reducing the arrears when Liam Lindsay headed wide from Hammill’s free-kick.
With Barnsley committing more men forward, Forest looked to use the counter-attack to their advantage and almost bagged a third goal when Cash rattled the upright with a ferocious strike on 70 minutes.
Potts then forced a brilliant save from Kapino as the Greek goalkeeper plunged to his right to parry the ball away, and Mamadou Thiam couldn’t quite turn home the rebound.
Connor Mahoney, introduced at the break for Moncur, looked lively on the right flank and floated a cross for Gary Gardner, whose header was well saved down to his left by Kapino.
But from that attack, Forest broke and Joe Lolley danced his way into the area. His dinked effort was well saved by Walton, but the rebound fell to Vellios who turned the ball home to kill off any hopes of a Barnsley revival in the dying stages.
The Reds came close to a consolation in stoppage time, but Tom Bradshaw couldn’t keep his header down as he met Dani Pinillos’ cross.
REDS XI: Walton, Cavaré, Jackson, Lindsay, Pinillos, Potts, Gardner (c), Moncur (Mahoney, 46), Hammill (Thiam, 70), Moore (Bradshaw, 87), McBurnie
Not used: Davies, McCarthy, Pinnock, Mallan
FOREST XI: Kapino, Lichaj, Mancienne, Guedioura, Bridcutt, Fox, Cash, Tomlin (Lolley, 80), Brereton (Vellios, 80), Fuentes (Osborn, 46), Watson (c)
Not used: Smith, Colback, Hobbs, Darikwa