A match which boasted all the hallmarks of a derby - fast action, furious tackles and, towards the end, tired limbs - inexplicably ended without a goal being scored. Which, as the reaction of the respective teams at the final whistle proved, suited one far better than the other.
As Sheffield United, who had been told their hopes of a top six finish were dependent upon victory, looked disconsolate, Paul Heckingbottom's charges trooped down the tunnel with a much more satisfied air.
Both sets of players had given their all but, try as they might, could not force the breakthrough this exhausting, breathless fixture deserved.
It was an enthralling fixture but, as United lamented, one where defenders won the day.
Barnsley arrived at Bramall Lane knowing, unlike United, that defeat was an option. Nevertheless, with the hosts being told by Adkins to try and wrestle immediate control, they contributed to an absolutely frantic opening period which saw both teams work at double-quick pace.
Adam Hammill spurned a good chance for the visitors when, after finding himself in space on the edge of George Long's six yard box, he scooped the ball straight at the goalkeeper who scrambled clear with a little help from Jay McEveley. But Che Adams went even closer for Adkins' team when, midway through the first-half, he struck the woodwork.
Inexplicably, the scores remained deadlocked at the break. Much of which Barnsley will doubtless have spent debating whether George Williams' effort just before the interval should have stood.
The longer the contest remained deadlocked, so nerves and tenion among the United team grew. It was an inevitable scenario but one which, predictably, also took its toll on their quality of their work. There was no shortage of industry but, ultimately, too little clever invention although, as United threw caution to the wind during the closing stages, Billy Sharp came agonisingly close to beating Adam Davies to Martyn Woolford's well-driven cross while Conor Sammon also went close after being introduced.
United, naming an unchanged starting eleven for the fifth match in a row, found their rhythm immediately with Che Adams nearly sent scampering through following Chris Basham's early through ball and Matt Done peppering his old club's box with a series of low centres.
But Barnsley, with former Steelphalt Academy graduate Otis Khan featuring on the bench, proved tough nuts to crack with Ashley Fletcher causing problems whenever he dropped deep to collect the ball.
Nevertheless, it was Hammilll, albeit profiting from the on-loan centre-forward's trickery, who enjoyed the first real chance of note. His 18th minute shot flew into Long's chest, though, and was duly cleared.
United were posing plenty of questions of their own but that passage of play was a reminder than Barnsley, bristling with confidence following their remarkable climb up the table in recent months, carried a huge threat.
It provoked a response with Done seeing a shot cleared after Davies had spilled a 25th minute cross and Adams seeing a vicious attempt from distance palmed onto the foot of the post by Barnsley's goalkeeper.
The afternoon's first real flashpoint came with 12 minutes of the half remaining when Sam Winnall was cautioned for a challenge on Long. David Coote, the referee, appeared ready to let the action continue until David Edgar, Basham and Dean Hammond confronted the centre-forward and duly produced a yellow card. Another talking point soon followed when Williams rolled the ball into the back of United's net but Coote ruled-out the 'goal' out for a foul on Flynn by Winnall. The United midfielder had got himself into a pickle but the decision seemed to be correct although, understandably, Heckingbottom spent the next few moments analysing events with fourth official Duncan Street.
Sharp, who had struggled to escape Marc Roberts' clutches, finally engineered some space just before the hour mark beneath Basham's cross but could not adjust his body shape in time to truly test Davies. Another opening presented itself in the 68th minute when Adams broke ranks and slipped a slide-rule pass to Done but, as Flynn raced to meet the subsequent centre, could not check his run in time to meet the ball which flew behind him.
Hammill shot well wide after ghosting in-field soon after. United's urgent need to commit players forward should have played into the hands of a lively Barnsley side. But, as the end approached, Sharp was inches away from beating Davies to substitute Martyn Woolford's cross. Fletcher glanced a header wide soon after but there was to be no breakthrough.
Sheffield United: Long, Basham, Flynn, Coutts, Sharp, Done (Woolford 83), McEveley (Sammon 87), Baptiste, Adams, Edgar, Hammond (Cuvelier 73). Not used: Howard, Calvert-Lewin, McGahey, Whiteman.
Barnsley: Davies, Roberts, Scowen, Hourihane, Winnall, Brownhill, Fletcher (Toney 90), Hammill, Williams, Mawson, Isgrove. Not used: Nyatanga, McCourt, Townsend, Khan, Tuton, Chapman.
Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire).