Preston North End made it two wins in the space of four days as they blitzed Gerhard Struber’s Barnsley with three unanswered first half goals.
Tom Barkhuizen grabbed a brace, sandwiching a right-footed strike from Daniel Johnson, as the Lilywhites dominated their hosts at Oakwell.
Manager Alex Neil made just one change from the side that defeated Charlton Athletic at the weekend, with Ben Pearson returned as the midfield enforcer in place of Sean Maguire, but it was the formation that really changed the side.
PNE matched their opponents with a midfield diamond, with Harrop in behind a front two of Scott Sinclair and scorer Barkhuizen and this saw them dominate the first half.
The hosts had a chance to take the lead before the scoring began, however, when just five minutes in Connor Chaplin burst through the middle of the pitch and got a shot away, touched around the post by Declan Rudd for a corner.
But this only served as an appetiser for the Lilywhites’ attacking efforts in the opening period.
They took the lead on 19 minutes with a superb team goal that saw Pearson find Johnson, who fed the ball on to Josh Harrop on the edge of the penalty area. He found Darnel Fisher on the right of the box, who drilled a pass across to Barkhuizen who stroked home from by penalty spot into bottom right-hand corner.
It was two on 34 minutes when a long ball from Rudd down the right was flicked on by skipper Alan Browne. Barkhuizen dispossessed Mads Andersen and drove the ball across to Harrop, whose shot blocked by Kenny Dougall, but Johnson fired home right-footed from 12 yards out for his ninth of the season to retake the top spot in the scoring charts from Josh Harrop.
A rare chance for the home side came five minutes after the lead had been doubled, as Marcel Ritzmaier had a curling effort from the right corner of the penalty area, pushed away at full stretch by Rudd, with Fisher mopping up the rebound.
And in the final seconds of normal time in the half Barkhuizen made it three. He flicked on the ball himself from Ben Davies’ long clearance and then Andersen cleared the ball onto fellow centre half Aapo Halme and Barkhuizen collected the loose ball and races in to finish with a little lifted ball over Sami Radlinger in the home goal and join Johnson on nine goals for the season.
There was even time for another opportunity, falling to Sinclair, who went close making it four, as he raced through onto a back pass down the left by home captain Alex Mowatt and fired over from a tight angle.
Brad Potts was introduced, to a fantastic reception from his former club’s fans, and almost scored immediately, as Browne worked the ball down the right and played it into Sean Maguire – who had come on with the former Barnsley man – and he backheeled it to Harrop, who drilled a cross Potts on the right corner of the six-yard box, but his low shot was just wide of the right-hand upright.
Some more superb football almost brought a fourth in the 86th minute as North End’s final change David Nugent linked-up with Harrop, a double one-two eventually seeing the No.35 pulling back for the midfielder to fire a shot inches wide of the right-hand post, but it remained 3-0 as the Lilywhites moved into the Play-Off places with the victory.
Barnsley line-up: Radlinger, J Williams, Dougall (Woodrow, 54), Andersen, Brown, Chaplin (Schmidt, 75), Ludewig, Thomas (Styles, 61), Ritzmaier, Halme, Mowatt (c). Subs not used: Collins, B Williams, Sibbick, Simoes.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Fisher, Rafferty, Pearson, Bauer, Davies, Barkhuizen (Nugent, 74), Johnson (Potts, 67), Sinclair (Maguire, 67), Browne (c), Harrop. Subs not used: Ripley, Clarke, Ledson, Stockley.
Attendance: 12,207 (679 PNE fans)
Referee: Mr J Simpson