The Premiership strugglers Leicester City may have second thoughts about off-loading Dean Sturridge after the out-of-favour striker marked his Molineux debut with a hat-trick as Wolves stormed back to the head of the First Division.
The treble two goals in the first half and a third in the final quarter after Shaun Newton had taken the credit for what looked like an own goal raised Sturridge's tally to four in two games since Leicester released him on loan last week. Were Newton not claiming his fifth of the season, Sturridge would be in the unusual position of being leading scorer at two clubs simultaneously.
The 28-year-old former Derby player had been told he was not wanted at Filbert Street despite his three goals being two more than any other Leicester player has managed and the Wolves manager, Dave Jones, is considering making his move permanent as he seeks a consistent goalscorer. Jones said: "It is not just a matter of whether we fancy him but whether he fancies us and there is always the danger the fee will go up."
Speed has always been Sturridge's prime asset and it served him well last night, proving the telling factor behind his 10th minute opener and his second after 33 minutes. He had too much for everyone as Lee Naylor swung in a low free-kick left-footed from the right flank, stabbing home unchallenged at the far post. And when Nathan Blake flicked on goalkeeper Michael Oakes' long kick 12 minutes before half-time Sturridge was always winning the chase against the centre-back Chris Morgan, who lost his footing on a slippery surface to leave Sturridge free to drive in.
An unexpected reward for Barnsley before half-time, when Chris Lumsdon's chipped cross from the left eluded everyone except Chris Barker at the far post, disturbed the home side's dominance only briefly, even though injuries forced Jones into a double defensive change at half-time.
Barker's joy at scoring only his second senior goal was undone when his boot appeared to restore the home side's two-goal margin after Newton had stretched out a high leg to flick Ludovic Pollet's long ball out of goalkeeper Kevin Miller's reach.
Sturridge completed his hat-trick with 14 minutes left, putting the finishing touch to the best move of the night after Mohamed Camara had shown how fast he could run with an electric surge down the left capped by a square pass from which his team-mate could scarcely miss.
To round off a miserable evening for next-to-bottom Barnsley, their captain Morgan was sent off for a second yellow card offence.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Oakes; Connelly (Robinson, h-t), Butler (Pollet, h-t), Lescott, Naylor; Newton, Cameron, Rae, Camara; Blake (Roussel, 84), Sturridge. Substitutes not used: Sinton, Murray (gk).
Barnsley (4-5-1): Miller; Mulligan, Morgan, Chettle, Barker; Donovan (Bertos, 80), Neil, Lumsdon, Tinkler (Crooks, h-t), Barnard (Sheron, 73); Dyer. Substitutes not used: Marriott (gk), Gorré.
Referee: G Barber (Tring).