Barnsley fell to a 2-1 defeat against promotion chasing Cardiff City on Tuesday evening.
Goals from Callum Paterson and Marko Grujic either side of half-time gave the hosts a 2-0 advantage at the Cardiff City Stadium, before Oli McBurnie gave the battling Reds hope on the hour mark.
José Morais’ side can take confidence from the performance, despite the loss, as they pushed a very strong Bluebirds side all the way in South Wales, and can consider themselves unlucky not to have claimed a share of the spoils.
It was the hosts who had the first opportunity of the game as former Barnsley loanee Kadeem Harris cut in from the left and lashed a shot into the side netting inside eight minutes.
Moments later, the Reds had a chance of their own when Mamadou Thiam’s corner was cleared only as far as Joe Williams, who fired wide from the edge of the box.
Barnsley continued to look bright, and Brad Potts embarked on a mazy run from the halfway line, beating two Bluebirds players in the process, but his low shot was comfortably saved by Neil Etheridge.
Nick Townsend was called into action for the first time on 18 minutes when he got down well to parry Craig Bryson’s fierce drive, before Ethan Pinnock put the ball behind for a corner.
Danish striker Kenneth Zohore was proving to be a handful for Cardiff, and his through ball was pin-point for Harris who could only drag his shot wide of Townsend’s right-hand post.
It was great end-to-end football, and the Reds almost drew first blood when Potts floated a dangerous cross into the six-yard box. The ball narrowly avoided Kieffer Moore, but Gary Gardner arrived late from deep and headed agonisingly wide from close range.
But it was Cardiff who made the breakthrough just after the half hour when Paterson fired home from 12-yards. Harris played a dangerous ball across the six-yard box and Pinnock did well to block Zohore’s initial effort, but the ball fell to Paterson on the penalty spot and to Scottish midfielder drilled into the bottom corner.
The hosts almost doubled their advantage three minutes later as Harris bent a wonderful, curling strike narrowly wide of the axis when he cut in from the left again.
Paterson then thought he had doubled his tally for the evening on the stroke of half-time as his header nestled into the bottom corner, only to see it ruled out for offside.
HALF-TIME: CARDIFF CITY 1-0 BARNSLEY
Christoph Knasmüllner was introduced for Gary Gardner at the interval as Morais looked for more options in attack, but the Reds soon saw themselves two goals behind courtesy of Grujic.
The Serbian midfielder, on loan from Liverpool, picked up the ball 25-yards from goal and fired an unstoppable shot into Townsend’s bottom left-hand corner less than a minute into the second half.
Barnsley looked to hit back immediately, and McBurnie almost scored for the third consecutive game but his shot trickled wide of the far post.
Thiam then tried his luck from range as he danced infield from the right touchline and fired a left-foot shot into the side netting.
The Reds’ relentless pressure was eventually rewarded on the hour mark when McBurnie turned home from close range. Potts started the move as he drove from deep, found Andy Yiadom well forward on the right who crossed for Knasmüllner. The Austrian midfielder managed to divert the ball towards goal, but McBurnie - on loan from Swansea City - finished clinically at the back post.
It was almost a quick fire double from the visitors as Thiam swung a corner into the box. Knasmüllner, Moore and McBurnie all tried to fire the ball past Etheridge, but the Bluebird’s stopper managed to make a save down to his right.
Barnsley continued to press for a much-deserved equaliser, and were almost caught on the break as Nathaniel Mendez-Laing rattled the post from the edge of the box in stoppage time.
But there was still time for one last Reds’ attack as Ryan Hedges crossed for fellow substitute Tom Bradshaw in the dying moments, but the Barnsley frontman was unable to make any real contact with the ball.
FULL TIME: CARDIFF CITY 2-1 BARNSLEY
REDS XI: Townsend (GK), Yiadom (c), Lindsay, Pinnock, Fryers, Potts (Bradshaw, 87), Williams, Gardner (Knasmüllner, 46), Thiam (Hedges, 75), Moore, McBurnie
Not used: Davies (GK), Cavare, Mahoney, Pearson
CARDIFF XI: Etheridge (GK), Connolly, Manga, Bamba (c), Bennett, Bryson, Grujic (Halford, 56), Hoilett, Paterson (Damour, 62), Harris (Mendez-Laing, 70), Zohore
Not used: Murphy (GK), Feeney, Pilkington, Wildschut
Attendance: 16,176 (201 Reds)