John Hendrie and Nicky Eaden scored the goals to lift Barnsley into second place in the First Division and also inflict damage on Sheffield United, who are now four points behind their Yorskshire rivals and have played a game more.
These clubs may be locked together near the top of the table, but their diverse reaction to indifferent recent form illustrated the gulf in means. Sheffield United spent more than pounds 2m on Jan Aage Fjortoft, John Ebbrell and Nick Henry. Barnsley, meanwhile, could be profligate only with words.
"We cannot compete with them financially," Danny Wilson, the Barnsley manager, wrote in the programme. "But we can compete with them on the pitch. So-called bigger clubs are no better than we are when it comes to playing the game. Money does not guarantee success."
The first half illustrated the point perfectly. United had selected two tall centre-forwards in Fjortoft and Gareth Taylor, but could not get to the by-line often enough to give them proper service, Barnsley having withdrawn Neil Thompson to cover David White's incursions on the right.
Taylor had a volley that flew over the bar, but that effort and a few misdirected crosses apart, United were insipid. At the same time Barnsley got stronger as the half progressed and Neil Redfearn became the predominant influence in midfield.
On the half hour Paul Wilkinson could have scored but, having lost his marker to meet Clint Marcelle's cross, he then volleyed wastefully high.
The reprieve lasted only five minutes, however, as Hendrie produced a marvellous piece of impudence to put Barnsley ahead. There seemed little chance of the Scot finding the space to produce a shot when Eaden's low cross from the right reached the near post, but he dragged the ball with his heel through a thicket of defenders and into the net.
United pressed forward after the interval, but Barnsley had the opportunity to hit on the break and after 61 minutes Matty Appleby sent Hendrie clear. He rounded Alan Kelly, the Sheffield goalkeeper, but then lost his balance and fell to the floor. Mr Allison rightly ignored Barnsley's penalty pleas.
Sis minutes from time Barnsley wrapped up the points with a goal from a counter-attack. Thompson provided the perfect pass from the left and Eaden sidefooted the ball home.
Barnsley (3-5-2): Watson; Moses, Appleby, De Zeeuw; Eaden, Redfearn, Marcelle, Sheridan, Thompson; Wilkinson, Hendrie. Substitutes not used: Liddell, Bosanic, Bullock.
Sheffield United (4-4-2): Kelly; Short, Holdsworth, Nilsen, Ward; White, Hutchison, Henry, Whitehouse (Sandford, 58); Taylor, Fjortoft. Substitutes not used: Katchouro, Tracey (gk).
Referee: D Allison (Lancaster).