It was not the dream result the home crowd wanted when they filled the town's streets before the game, virtually every supporter in a red shirt. But sometimes these first-day results are false compared to what might happen over a whole season, and Barnsley certainly showed enough fight to suggest that Oakwell will be no easy place to visit.
"Everyone is going to get a battle here, make no mistake," Harry Redknapp, the West Ham manager, conceded afterwards.
If anything, the home crowd's expectation worked against Barnsley yesterday, as the team set off like whippets to take the game to the Londoners. They challenged for every ball, won every tackle and constantly drove towards the West Ham goal as though the game was a cup tie with a deficit to recover.
That deficit, of course, is a mere century of under-achievement, despite an FA Cup win in 1912. Last year's promotion to the Premiership may have been tinged with genuine romance, but every game for Barnsley will now be a learning curve.
"The first lesson we learned was not to give the opposition half-chances, because they take them in the Premiership," Danny Wilson, the Barnsley manager, said after the game.
He might also suggest that his team needs to pace itself more. Their scorching start may have brought a goal from Neil Redfearn, flicking Paul Wilkinson's header into the top corner, but it almost left them breathless for the rest of the game.
With their defence tackling anything that moved and the new midfield anchor Eric Tinkler shackling West Ham's playmaker Eyal Berkovitch, Barnsley might have had more goals in the first half, particularly from their right flank where Martin Bullock and Nicky Eaden combined impressively to send in dangerous crosses, one of which set up the goal. But even a weakened West Ham defence coped well and as the Hammers kept their rhythm in the heat, they came back into the game.
Stan Lazaridis made an immediate difference as soon as he came on after the interval, his pace stretching Barnsley's defensive cover. Within seven minutes West Ham were level as John Hartson climbed above the Barnsley goalkeeper, David Watson, and headed Marc Rieper's towering cross home.
John Hendrie had an immediate chance to equalise, but his shot was well saved by Ludek Miklosko. From that moment Barnsley were always chasing the game as West Ham's more experienced players found space and time to dominate. But it was another of their young substitutes who made the breakthrough, Frank Lampard flicking home Lazaridis' low cross from the left for West Ham's winner.Reuse content