Reading maintained their promotion charge with an emphatic win at Oakwell to secure their ninth win in 10 games.
After a goalless first half, strikes from Jobi McAnuff and Jem Karacan set the Royals on their way to victory within minutes of the restart.
Karacan added a brilliant third from long range in the 65th minute, while the prolific Jason Roberts completed the rout with a smart finish late on.
It moves Reading three points clear of third-placed West Ham, who drew.
But it leaves Barnsley on the fringes of the relegation fight after a run of six games without a win.
Their form is in sharp contrast to Reading, who had won eight games on the trot before their midweek draw at Doncaster.
A repeat of that outcome looked on the cards when Brian McDermott's side failed to break the deadlock in the first half, even if it was mainly down to Barnsley keeper Luke Steele that the scores remained level.
He did well to deny Noel Hunt from a tight angle after just 45 seconds before making superb saves from Roberts and Mikele Leigertwood.
But Reading were ahead in the 47th minute when Roberts laid the ball off for McAnuff to hit a low drive from the edge of the box.
Two minutes later, Barnsley failed to clear a ball in the penalty area and Karacan lashed in from 12 yards.
Karacan added a third with a blistering 25-yard strike before Roberts completed the scoring in the 90th minute after good work from Alex Pearce.
Barnsley manager Keith Hill: "I believe that we are in a relegation fight because the confidence is low. When you lose two early goals in the second half the players' confidence goes.
"At the moment we are in poor form. In fact we are in relegation form. We've got to show bravery and I expect my players to show bravery.
"I thought that in the first half we were more than competitive and we came up against a good side. I think Reading are the most effective side that we have played.""
Reading manager Brian McDermott: "To come to a tough place like Barnsley and win 4-0, I can't ask any more of my players.
"It was tough in the first half; I've not seen a team play as well and come at us like they did. They upset our rhythm and had a couple of early chances.
"There was no need for any harsh words at half-time. I knew that if we got the ball down and passed it that we would score."
- 01 Steele
- 06 Foster
- 14 Wiseman (Stones - 52' )
- 15 McNulty
- 23 Collins
- 05 Doyle (Dawson - 70' )
- 10 Done
- 16 Smith Booked
- 09 Davies
- 21 Nouble
- 32 Rose Booked (Cotterill - 71' )
- 30 Lidakevicius
- 34 Stones
- 07 Dawson
- 17 Cotterill
- 27 Gray
- 01 Federici
- 05 Pearce
- 17 Gorkss
- 23 Harte
- 04 Karacan (Tabb - 76' )
- 08 Leigertwood
- 11 McAnuff (Robson-Kanu - 67' )
- 14 Kebe (Church - 83' )
- 26 Mullins Booked
- 10 Hunt
- 33 Roberts
- 31 Andersen
- 07 Tabb
- 19 Robson-Kanu
- 09 Le Fondre
- 18 Church
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee signals the end of the game.90:00 +1:18
David Cotterill crosses the ball in from the free kick, save made by Adam Federici.90:00 +1:18 Booking
Booking Hayden Mullins booked for unsporting behaviour.90:00 +1:02
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Stephen Dawson by Hayden Mullins.89:34
Assist by Alex Pearce.89:34 Goal scored
Goal! - Jason Roberts - Barnsley 0 - 4 Reading A goal is scored by Jason Roberts from deep inside the penalty area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Barnsley 0-4 Reading.89:00
Effort from the edge of the area by Mikele Leigertwood goes wide of the right-hand post.87:59
Free kick awarded for a foul by Alex Pearce on Frank Nouble. Jimmy McNulty delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed from left channel, save made by Adam Federici.87:41
Jason Roberts has an effort at goal from the edge of the box that misses to the right of the target.86:40
Noel Hunt is caught offside. Luke Steele takes the free kick.85:06
Stephen Dawson concedes a free kick for a foul on Jason Roberts. Ian Harte has an effort direct from the free kick, Luke Steele makes a save.84:08
Shot by Frank Nouble from outside the area goes high over the crossbar.83:23
Jay Tabb gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Craig Davies. Frank Nouble restarts play with the free kick.82:36 Substitution
Substitution Simon Church comes on in place of Jimmy Kebe.81:41
Corner taken by David Cotterill, Mikele Leigertwood manages to make a clearance.80:29
Corner taken by David Cotterill played to the near post, clearance by Noel Hunt.79:27
The referee gives a free kick against Noel Hunt for handball. Direct free kick taken by Luke Steele.78:14
Shot from outside the area by Korey Smith misses to the left of the goal.76:53
Stephen Dawson fouled by Jay Tabb, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Luke Steele.75:56 Substitution
Substitution Jay Tabb replaces Jem Karacan.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Korey Smith by Noel Hunt. Free kick taken by Jimmy McNulty.73:56
Alex Pearce challenges Frank Nouble unfairly and gives away a free kick. Korey Smith takes the free kick.71:59
Unfair challenge on Jem Karacan by Korey Smith results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Adam Federici.71:18
Effort from outside the area by Craig Davies goes wide right of the goal.69:57 Substitution
Substitution David Cotterill joins the action as a substitute, replacing Danny Rose.69:57 Substitution
Substitution (Barnsley) makes a substitution, with Stephen Dawson coming on for Nathan Doyle.67:35
Free kick awarded for a foul by Korey Smith on Hal Robson-Kanu. Ian Harte delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from left wing, clearance made by Jimmy McNulty.66:14 Substitution
Substitution (Reading) makes a substitution, with Hal Robson-Kanu coming on for Jobi McAnuff.64:44
Noel Hunt provided the assist for the goal.64:44 Goal scored
Goal! - Jem Karacan - Barnsley 0 - 3 Reading Jem Karacan finds the back of the net with a goal from long range to the top right corner of the goal. Barnsley 0-3 Reading.63:39
Ian Harte takes the free kick.63:39 Booking
Booking Danny Rose is cautioned by the ref for unsporting behaviour.63:33
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Jobi McAnuff by Danny Rose.62:25
The referee blows for offside. Luke Steele takes the free kick.61:55
Unfair challenge on Jobi McAnuff by Frank Nouble results in a free kick. Adam Federici takes the direct free kick.61:17
Noel Hunt is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Free kick taken by Luke Steele.60:39
Noel Hunt concedes a free kick for a foul on Korey Smith. Free kick taken by Korey Smith.57:46
Jem Karacan challenges Danny Rose unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Luke Steele.56:22
Effort from inside the area by Jason Roberts misses to the left of the goal.54:52
Jobi McAnuff gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on John Stones. Luke Steele takes the free kick.54:03
Free kick awarded for a foul by Hayden Mullins on Frank Nouble. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Nathan Doyle from left channel, Alex Pearce makes a clearance.52:55
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Jobi McAnuff by Danny Rose. Ian Harte delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from left wing, clearance by Stephen Foster.52:05
Frank Nouble concedes a free kick for a foul on Alex Pearce. Adam Federici takes the direct free kick.51:21
Matty Done takes the outswinging corner, Noel Hunt manages to make a clearance.51:21 Substitution
Substitution John Stones on for Scott Wiseman.50:04
Frank Nouble gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Kaspars Gorkss. Adam Federici restarts play with the free kick.48:39 Goal scored
Goal! - Jem Karacan - Barnsley 0 - 2 Reading Jem Karacan gets on the score sheet with a goal from inside the box to the top left corner of the goal. Barnsley 0-2 Reading.46:35
Assist by Jason Roberts.46:35 Goal scored
Goal! - Jobi McAnuff - Barnsley 0 - 1 Reading A goal is scored by Jobi McAnuff from the edge of the area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Barnsley 0-1 Reading.45:52
Effort from outside the penalty box by Matty Done goes wide right of the goal.45:01
The match restarts for the second half.45:00 +0:58 Half time
Half Time It is the end of the first-half.44:26
The ball is sent over by Craig Davies, clearance made by Hayden Mullins. Outswinging corner taken by Matty Done, Kaspars Gorkss makes a clearance.43:03
The official flags Jason Roberts offside. Indirect free kick taken by Luke Steele.42:30
Korey Smith challenges Jem Karacan unfairly and gives away a free kick. Alex Pearce takes the direct free kick.40:56
Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Jobi McAnuff, save by Luke Steele.38:53
Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Ian Harte. Mikele Leigertwood produces a volleyed right-footed shot from deep inside the penalty box which goes wide of the left-hand upright.38:06
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Ian Harte from the right by-line to the near post, Nathan Doyle manages to make a clearance.37:27
Outswinging corner taken left-footed by Ian Harte, clearance made by Frank Nouble.37:06
Mikele Leigertwood takes a shot. Save made by Luke Steele.32:51
Inswinging corner taken by Jobi McAnuff from the left by-line, Jason Roberts takes a shot. Luke Steele makes a save.31:15
Jason Roberts challenges Stephen Foster unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Luke Steele.29:19
Danny Rose concedes a free kick for a foul on Mikele Leigertwood. Adam Federici takes the free kick.26:23
Noel Hunt concedes a free kick for a foul on Craig Davies. Craig Davies shoots direct from the free kick.24:36
Long distance shot from Craig Davies misses to the left of the target.23:25
Shot from just outside the area by Jobi McAnuff goes over the bar.21:07
The assistant referee flags for offside against Frank Nouble. Free kick taken by Adam Federici.19:55
The ball is swung over by Matty Done, clearance made by Ian Harte.18:18
Matty Done takes a inswinging corner from the right by-line played to the near post, clearance by Noel Hunt.17:04
Jobi McAnuff has shot on goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.15:25
Outswinging corner taken left-footed by Matty Done, clearance by Ian Harte.15:05
Scott Wiseman sends in a cross, Frank Nouble takes a shot. Save by Adam Federici.12:19
Long distance effort from Danny Rose misses to the left of the goal.11:35
Alex Pearce gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Luke Steele. Luke Steele takes the free kick.10:44
Free kick crossed left-footed by Ian Harte from right channel, save by Luke Steele.10:44 Booking
Booking The referee shows Korey Smith a yellow card.10:37
Korey Smith challenges Jimmy Kebe unfairly and gives away a free kick.8:02
Jem Karacan concedes a free kick for a foul on Danny Rose. Free kick taken by Jimmy McNulty.7:15
Ian Harte fouled by Craig Davies, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Ian Harte.4:02
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Ian Harte from the right by-line to the near post, clearance made by Nathan Doyle.0:45
Noel Hunt takes a shot. Luke Steele makes a save.0:00
The game begins.
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