Second half strikes from Alex Mowatt and Victor Adeboyejo gave Barnsley the points at Oakwell, as they responded to Sean Maguire’s early goal for the Lilywhites.
Alex Neil made five changes to the side that faced Luton Town, with Ryan Ledson and Brad Potts both out injured and Josh Earl making his first league start of the season, alongside the returning Daniel Johnson, Paul Gallagher, Emil Riis and Maguire.
They lined-up in a 3-5-2 formation and three of the new boys combined to give the Lilywhites a blistering start.
An overlapping run from Earl, starting his first league game since April 2019, won a corner for the greens on the left. Gallagher whipped over an inswinging delivery that home striker Cauley Woodrow could only flick on to where Maguire dived in at the back post to head home.
Jack Walton pushed it out, but the ball was already well over the line and referee Dean Whitestone awarded the goal after a quick conversation with nearside assistant Rob Merchant.
And the visitors had a glorious chance to double their advantage at a similar time from the end of the half, in the 44th minute, as Gallagher cleared a Barnsley corner with an accurate ball that sent Riis clean through on goal, supported by Johnson – who did well to keep himself onside – but the Dane chose to cut inside and shoot from 15 yards, but his effort was straight at Walton.
But the home side drew level on 54 minutes, as captain Mowatt exchanged a one-two with Callum Styles and whipped a left-footed shot across goal from the left corner of the penalty area, off the right-hand post and into the net, Declan Rudd having no chance.
The visitors almost went back in front before the hour mark, as Alan Browne broke down the right and sent Barkhuizen away, whose low deep cross came all the way to Earl on the back post. His initial driven shot was blocked by Walton, but it came back to his right foot and his second effort beat the ’keeper, but also the bar.
However, the visitors went in front with ten minutes left with a break down the left, Woodrow threading substitute Adeboyejo through in what looked like an offside position, but he was allowed to go on and curl a shot into the top right-hand corner from the left side of the penalty area.
Only four minutes of stoppage time were added on by Dean Whitestone, despite numerous stoppages and seven substitutions, but it was still time for North End to attack and throw balls into the box towards Earl and Jayden Stockley, but it was not enough to get the goal their performance would have deserved.
Barnsley line-up: Walton, Sollbauer, Helik, Andersen, Brittain, Mowatt, James (Kane, 78), Styles, Frieser (Adeboyejo, 61), Woodrow, Chaplin (Thomas, 61). Subs not used: Collins, Moon, Palmer, Oduor, Schmidt, Miller.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Fisher, Hughes, Browne, Earl, Davies, Barkhuizen (Stockley, 74), Johnson, Riis (Sinclair, 66), Maguire (Rafferty, 67), Gallagher (Bayliss, 78). Subs not used: Ripley, Harrop, Storey, Huntington, O’Reilly.
Referee: Mr D Whitestone