THE Premier League dream remains alive. And if Swansea City continue to carve out victories when not firing on all cylinders, who would bet against them sneaking into the play-offs after all?
This fifth away win of the campaign, courtesy of goals from Ashley Williams, Jordi Gomez and Jason Scotland, and arch-rivals Cardiff City’s win over sixth-place Burnley, means the Swans are now four points adrift.
And Saturday’s visit of a deflated Bristol City to the Liberty Stadium seems much more winnable than it did three weeks ago.
This wasn’t pretty – Barnsley’s tactics of matching the Swans three-versus-three in midfield saw to that.
Williams and Garry Monk needed to be on top of their game at the back, while midfielders Darren Pratley and Leon Britton needed their defensive heads on for long periods.
But when you have someone of the class of Gomez in your ranks, you can never be written off.
The Spaniard oozed quality at Oakwell, creating two and scoring another.
And in Newcastle United assistant manager Chris Hughton, watching from the stands, he will have no doubt added another member to his burgeoning fan club.
Martinez made no less than four changes from the side which defeated Norwich City 2-1 last Saturday.
Angel Rangel again missed out with a foot injury, and Albert Serran was preferred to Andrea Orlandi at right-back.
Gorka Pintado earned a start, while Pratley came in for Joe Allen and Mark Gower moved up from the bench.
Swansea-born Tykes manager Simon Davey made just the one change, on-loan Liverpool winger Adam Hammill in for Michael Mifsud.
Martinez had asked his side to garner maximum points – the ‘Perfect 12’, as he called it – from their final four games and it was certainly the perfect start.
There were less than two minutes on the clock when Tykes goalkeeper Heinz Muller skewed a back-pass out for a throw-in, from which Gomez drew a foul from Anderson. Gomez himself whipped a superb free-kick into the box, and Williams slid in unmarked four yards out for his second goal of the season.
With a trip to Reading and a visit from Wolves coming up, this was a must-win game for the hosts, and they responded accordingly.
The following 20 minutes saw Swansea pinned in their own half as the red shirts swept forward.
Hammill and Jamal Campbell-Ryce were at the heart of most moves, with full-backs Robert Kozluk and Bobby Hassell overlapping to good effect.
Left-back Kozluk, in particular, found success against Serran, and the Swans’ defence were grateful to see his team-mates fail to anticipate two excellent crosses in the space of a minute.
Hammill’s trickery and willingness to run at defenders earned his side two free-kicks in dangerous positions – both wasted – before Daniel Bogdanovic somehow contrived to miss the ball completely inside the six-yard box after captain Stephen Foster’s fizzing cross.
Then it was Britton’s turn to unfairly stop Hammill’s gallop, for which the midfielder earned the game’s first caution. From the ensuing 20-yard free-kick, De Vries did well to hold Anderson’s low drive through the wall.
When the Swans did break out, they were more than happy to slow things down.
Gower’s snap-shot kept Muller on his toes before Swansea stepped up a gear.
On the half-hour, another Gower shot was parried by Muller, Gomez hit the rebound at Darren Moore and Pintado’s follow-up was deflected for a corner.
And after the Tykes’ frantic, desperate attempts at an equaliser, Swansea’s second goal was a lesson in patience.
Alan Tate stood with the ball at his feet near the left touchline for what seemed like an eternity.
And when he finally laid a simple ball inside to Gomez, the Spaniard sprinted past his marker to the edge of the area before unleashing a shot which flew past Muller’s outstretched left hand into the bottom corner.
De Vries had to be alert to push out Hammill’s drive, and after riding the early storm, the Swans were sitting on a 2-0 half-time cushion.
Davey made two changes at the break and it almost paid instant dividends.
Monk did well to poke the ball away as Bogdanovic was about to pull the trigger, and from the resulting corner, Britton was forced to clear Foster’s header off the line.
Barnsley thought they had made the breakthrough in the 51st minute.
Anderson showed Tate a clean pair of heels and crossed for Jon Macken to head at the far post, but as the striker turned to wheel away, de Vries threw himself across goal to block with his body.
It was all Barnsley, de Vries acrobatically pushing out a Hammill drive and Britton breathing a sigh of relief when, after losing possession on the edge of his area, Bogdanovic failed to hit the target.
But just as in the first half, Swansea soaked up the pressure before delivering a hammer blow. A long pass from Gomez towards Scotland missed its target, but a touch of spin on the ball saw Foster hesitate.
He snatched at his header back to Muller, and could only watch as it bounced off his goalkeeper and straight to Scotland, who slotted in from 12 yards for his 24th goal of the campaign.
Poor Muller. He had gifted Watford a late equaliser two days earlier, and now his every touch was greeted with ironic cheers from the home fans.
Bogdanovic netted a consolation penalty in the 82nd minute after Tate had handled substitute Hugo Colace’s shot.
But it never got close to the nail-biting stage as the Swans held on comfortably, leaving Martinez purring and a disgruntled Davey refusing to speak to the press.