It's a first defeat in eight for the Reds as they lose 4-2 on Wearside.
A crazy 10 minute spell in the first half of this game saw the Reds three goals down and despite a spirited attempt to fight back, a late fourth goal for the hosts sealed a win in atrocious conditions.
Daniel Stendel's side started the game in decent fashion, the ball zipping around nicely with some good one-touch football.
But after Josh Maja had somehow headed over unmarked, six yards out, Barnsley dominated for five minutes, seeing Cameron McGeehan shoot over after good link up play with Kieffer Moore and then Dimitri Cavaré tried his luck from range only to see the keeper parry away the effort.
Sunderland broke with a long kick downfield, Aiden McGeady put in a low cross and despite what looked a fine sliding tackle by Ethan Pinnock in the box, the referee saw differently, pointing to the spot.
McGeady put away the penalty kick, and they doubled their lead almost instantly.
The Reds gave up possession, the ball was worked into Maja and after spinning Pinnock's challenge he curled home beyond Adam Davies for 2-0.
It should have been 3-0 when Maja once again spooned a header from six yards over the bar.
It was 3-0 on 31 minutes though, as Lynden Gooch curled home from the edge of the box after some more chaotic Reds defending.
Barnsley did at least show some fight in the latter stages of the first half and got a deserved goal for their efforts on 41 minutes when Moore stabbed home at the second attempt.
Woodrow rattled the post as Stendel's side were relentlessly attacking their hosts before the referee blew for the break.
HALF TIME: Sunderland 3-1 Barnsley
The Reds came out in the second half and continued to dominate, looking the likeliest to add to the scoreline.
With just over an hour played, Moore met one of many Alex Mowatt corner kicks with power at the near post and made it 3-2.
It was all Barnsley at this stage and the dramatic comeback looked more than possible. But despite the introductions of Jacob Brown, George Moncur and Victor Adeboyejo, and some close calls, the Sunderland backline wasn't breached for a third time.
They eventually countered the Reds with five minutes remaining, substitute Luke O'Nien stabbing home into an empty net.
FULL TIME: Sunderland 4-2 Barnsley
Davies, Cavaré, Pinnock, Lindsay, Fryers (Brown), Potts (Moncur), Mowatt, McGeehan, Thiam, Moore, Woodrow (Adeboyejo).