Fleetwood Town’s three point cushion from the drop remains intact despite a toothless second half performance that allowed a lacklustre Barnsley outfit to nab all three points.
Town suffered their third successive defeat as Barnsley triumphed 2-0 at Highbury thanks to a disastrous own goal by Joe Davis and a late header by Barnsley substitute Josh Scowen.
Town paid the price for missed opportunities after dominating the first 45 but once again failed to turn possession into goals.
It could have been a different story had new boy Thomas Grant converted two great chances and if the referee had awarded Town a penalty when striker Shola Ameobi appeared to be tugged back in the box.
Grant outfoxed Barnsley’s defence, stole in on the left and raced through on goal twice but he just blasted the first opportunity over the bar and his second effort was saved by shot-stopper Adam Davies.
But the big moment for Town was in the 27th minute when striker Ameobi appealed in vain for what looked like a stone cold penalty.
Jimmy Ryan’s shot was parried into the former Newcastle United forward’s path but as he flew through the air to try and nod the ball past Davies he appeared to be tugged back by George Williams.
But the referee waved away his claims and ruled that Ameobi was not impeded and the game effectively ended for Town in the 47th minute when Davis nodded the ball over Maxwell.
The Town defender was under pressure from the Barnsley attack as the ball was hoofed upfield towards the box.
But he unbelievably made the decision to try and nod the ball with the back of his head to Maxwell and accidentally powerfully sent the ball looping over the helpless keeper who tried his best to scramble back and make up for the defender’s error of judgement.
It is not the first time this season Davis has made a mistake that has cost Town a goal but this time his slip-up led to Barnsley nabbing all three points.
It was not an impressive performance by the Tykes but Town never recovered from the own-goal sucker punch and despite only being a goal down they never showed the desire, fight or imagination in the final third to get back into the game.
And substitute Josh Scowen nodded in Conor Hourihane’s at the front post to put the game to bed.
The result did not impact Town’s place in the League One table as they managed to hold onto 19th-place.
Town’s neighbours Blackpool beat fellow strugglers Crewe but Oldham and Doncaster both lost so Steven Pressley’s side’s three point cushion from the drop remains intact.
It was the fourth time this season the two teams had met after Town’s 1-0 win at Oakwell and two 1-1 draws in the two-legged Johnstone’s Paint Northern Area final.
Barnsley progressed to the Wembley final with a penalty shoot-out win and Town were out for revenge.
Pressley made one change to the side that lost 1-0 to Walsall in midweek as striker Ameobi replaced Ash Hunter as the manager stuck with a 4-3-3 formation.
Grant retained his place after making his debut against Walsall.
Antoni Sarcevic was fit enough to be named on the bench after picking up a thigh strain in the 2-1 win over Gillingham earlier this month and made his comeback in the second half after a three game absence.
Attacking midfielder Stefan Scougall joined the club on a one month emergency loan deal from Sheffield United on Friday and was also named on the bench.
It was a solid start by Town against a Barnsley team that seemed to be downcast and hungover from the 2-0 defeat against Southend last weekend.
Town nearly capitalised on their good start as they were inches away from opening the scoring in the eighth minute after a slick passing move orchestrated by Eggert Jonsson sliced open the visitors.
Jonsson slid the ball across the box to Grant who was a whisker away from hitting the net as his angled shot from the left just fizzed over the bar.
Barnsley players Josh Brownhill and Conor Hourihane both flew in with late challenges early doors but the referee opted not to reach for his book despite the crowds protestations.
It was all Town in the opening exchanges, Wes Burns steamed down the right wing but as he tried to pull the ball back from the line into the on-running path of David Ball it was blocked and Nilsson nodded over under no pressure from the subsequent Burns corner.
The lively Grant again found himself steaming in on goal and one-on-one with Adam Davies. The youngster tried to dink the ball over the on-running keeper as he neared the six-yard box but the shot-stopper managed to divert the ball away in the 21st minute.
Ball’s shot from distance appeared to fall nicely into the path of Burns but the striker was flagged offside for the third time just 25 minutes in.
Just two minutes later Fleetwood had a huge shout for a penalty waved away by referee Wright, The man in turquoise left the crowd blue in the face after Jimmy Ryan’s shot from distance was palmed into the path of Ameobi in the box.
The experienced striker went for the ball with his head but appeared to be tugged back and impeded by George Williams as he tried to leap through the air.
It looked to be a clear foul but as the Cod Army waited for the referee to point to the spot he waved away the claim leading to a roar of disgust from the home faithful.
Had the referee awarded a spot-kick he would have had another big decision to make with Williams thwarting a goal scoring opportunity but it was not to be Fleetwood’s day and after that decision the tide turned in the Tykes favour.
The referee finally reached into his pocket in the 31st minute as he booked both Town’s Joe Davis and Barnsley striker Sam Winnall after the pair engaged in a bit of argy bargy.
Just seconds later Ameobi was withdrawn after picking up a strain when he tried to nod in the rebound from Ryan’s shot.
Barnsley absorbed Town’s pressure and relied on the counter as winger Adam Hammill found space in the middle and ran at the defence but smashed his shot wide of the left post.
Ashley Fletcher was booked for a foul on Davis, it was the second time the Barnsley man had taken the defender out and Town threatened from the subsequent set-piece.
Ryan whipped in a tantalising free-kick that was nodded away by Barnsley at the back stick but only into the path of Jonsson at the top of the box.
He initially miss-controlled the ball but managed to pinch it back, spin and launch the ball over the bar.
The Tykes had their best spell just before the break after Town had bossed the opening 40 minutes.
Firstly Fletcher nodded over from just six yards out with the goal at his mercy and after the ball had pinged around Town’s box Hourihane pounced and forced Maxwell to dive to his right and stop his bobbling volley.
And it was Barnsley who did eventually take the lead just three minutes into the second half, just moments after tipping Davis’ clearing header away from his own goal Maxwell could only back-pedal and look up to the cloudy skies in vain as Davis made yet another error and nodded the ball over him.
New boy Grant’s set-piece from the right fizzed across the box but Davis could only hoof the ball into Davies’ arms.
Bell hit the side netting and Ball blasted over - though it would not have counted had he hit the target as he was ruled offside.
It was to be his last act of the game as he was withdrawn for Antoni Sarcevic who made his comeback from a thigh injury.
Jimmy Ryan was the engine of the team and worked tirelessly up and down the pitch but he could only fire wide from distance as he tried to drag Town back into the game.
Jonsson had looked leggy as the game wore on and Pressley chose to bring the midfielder off and give new signing Stefan Scougall a chance to impress.
But it was a lacklustre final 20 minutes by the host’s as despite only being a goal down with an abundance of minutes to play they barely threatened and severely lacked imagination in the final third.
Davis made a vital block to stop a shot and the Tykes should have doubled their lead but for a dreadful miss by Hamill.
Hamill outfoxed Town’s defence and rounded Maxwell in the 79th minute but he smashed the ball across the face of goal from the left of the box.
But Barnsley finally got their second goal as substitute Scowen nodded in Hourihane’s corner at the front post in the 84th minute.
Scowen was booked for fouling Ryan and the Town player was lucky not to pick up a card himself as he reacted badly to the challenge and the game fizzled to a drab end.
The air ambulance had to land outside the stadium during the game after a Barnsley fan allegedly suffered a heart attack.
It is believed the fan has been airlifted to Manchester hospital.
Fleetwood Town: Maxwell, McLaughlin, Nilsson, Davis, Bell, Ryan, Jonsson (Scougall, 70), Grant, Ball (Sarcevic, 58), Ameobi (Cole, 31), Burns. Subs not used: Gogic, Forbes, Jordan, Hunter.
Barnsley: Davies, Roberts, Connolly, Mawson, Williams, Brownhill, Hourihane, Hammill, Isgrove (Chapman, 89), Fletcher (Scowen, 76), Winnall. Subs not used: Smith, Townsend, Khan, Tuton, Nyatanga.
Referee: Kevin Wright (Cambridgeshire)