Football followers yearning to see a name other than that of the big four clubs on the FA Cup will have their wish granted for the first time since 1995. The holders Chelsea last night followed Manchester United out of the competition, falling to a rare goal halfway through the second half by the Nigerian striker Kayode Odejayi.
It came against the run of play, though Barnsley, unlike their previous triumph at Liverpool, required neither good fortune nor goalkeeping pyrotechnics to achieve a sensation. This one takes them to Wembley and a first semi-final since the Titanic went down 96 years ago.
Chelsea were sunk through a failure to capitalise on the few clear chances they created, the best of which fell to John Terry right at the finish. The home side were therefore allowed to stay in a game that for all their bravery seemed to be drifting away from them early in the second half. Little was demanded of Luke Steele, the goalkeeper who had frustrated Liverpool in the fifth round, but he dealt with everything competently.
At the other end, however, Carlo Cudicini, deputising for the injured Petr Cech, was comprehensively beaten to a right-wing cross for the goal that sent Oakwell into raptures not experienced here since the "just like watching Brazil" year up among the big boys a decade ago.
Brazil would have been tested by yesterday's combination of scuffed-up pitch, wind and rain, all of which added to the sense of a proper cup tie. Yet Barnsley never resorted to the big boot, the captain and Anfield match-winner Brian Howard leading the way with his passing from midfield.
Chelsea's manager Avram Grant, who may now need to win the Champions' League to keep his job, said: "It is not a pitch we can play quality football on. In the first half we didn't play good but give a lot of credit to Barnsley. There is always a lot of pressure as manager of a big club like Chelsea."
There is none whatsoever on Simon Davey, who in his second season in charge of Barnsley has brought the club back into the national spotlight. He took the trouble to visit Stamford Bridge for last Wednesday's Champions' League tie against Olympiakos and learnt an important lesson from the Greeks' feeble display. "Olympiakos sat back and allowed Chelsea to dictate," he said. "We had to take the game to them, show them no respect and get in their faces."
Taking no chances, Grant brought in six fresh players, though Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba had to be replaced because of injury. The team selected should have been sufficient to see off a side 33 places below them in the grand scheme of things so it was all the more surprising that Barnsley created the two authentic chances of the first half.
In the 35th minute Ricardo Carvalho allowed Bobby Hassell's free-kick to drop over his head, where the lurking Istvan Ferenczi should have done better than clip the outside of a post. Within a minute, Howard put through the other striker, Odejayi, but by delaying his shot he allowed Cudicini a more favourable angle to make a block.
There had been another uncomfortable moment for the holders when Cudicini was uncertain whether he could pick up the ball without punishment and hacked against Odejayi, from whom it bounced past a post.
In between those moments of excitement for an already vocal home crowd, Grant's team were restricted to half-chances, and often betrayed by a bobble off the pitch at the wrong moment. Nicolas Anelka, Michael Ballack and Chelsea's best player, Joe Cole, all suffered. Anelka's shot after Terry headed the ball down to him was then blocked at the expense of a corner and Jamal Campbell-Ryce blocked Anelka's drive almost on the line.
The worry for the home side was that two strikers who have only half-a-dozen goals between them in more than 60 appearances this season had each wasted their big chance. There would be one more, however, the hardest one, which suddenly materialised amid all the Chelsea pressure in the 66th minute.
Martin Devaney sent in a cross from the right to which Odejayi, who was signed from Cheltenham Town last summer, beat Cudicini, nodding in a powerful header that will go down in Oakwell folklore.
Unlike Sir Alex Ferguson, Davey has no objection whatever to playing the Cup semi-finals at Wembley. "I've never been there as a player or supporter and it'll be a day to enjoy," Davey said.