Wigan had Morgan Fox dismissed with 20 minutes to go for a high challenge on Elliot Simoes, although Barnsley will be wondering how differently things might have turned out if Antonee Robinson had faced the same punishment in the first half for a horror collision that sent Kilian Ludewig spinning across Oakwell.
There was plenty of desire but quality in the final third was at a premium and neither side could find a goal in a frantic finish, leaving both – Wigan pending an appeal to their 12-point deduction - closer to potential League One football.
Story of the match
It was a first half with few chances. Barnsley enjoyed more of the ball but struggled to create any chances from it, with front two Cauley Woodrow and Jacob Brown each having long-range efforts saved by David Marshall.
The Latics had a penalty claim turned down when Kal Naismith went for a loose ball with Jack Walton and believed the goalkeeper had fouled him in trying to recover from fumbling Kieffer Moore’s header, their only shot on target in the whole game.
However, they could count themselves very fortunate with a later decision when Ludewig was sent spinning in the air by Robinson. The full-back was late, forceful and reckless, but managed to escape with only a yellow card.
Only in injury time did Wigan hint at their potential potency on the counter, with Moore winning the ball and Joe Williams finding Kieran Dowell only for Michael Sollbauer to save the day with a flying challenge.
The visitors came out an improved force after the break, aided by a change in formation late in the first period. They matched up to Barnsley’s back-three set-up with Naismith becoming a third centre-half, neutering their attacking triumvirate while giving Robinson and Nathan Byrne greater license to attack down the flanks.
Jamal Lowe had an effort blocked by Jordan Williams, before Walton missed a Robinson cross altogether and was relieved to see Moore fail to make contact either. A big chance fell for Barnsley at the other end when Callum Styles’ cross found Sollbauer free in the middle of the box, but the Austrian defender scuffed the volley wide.
Just as Wigan looked to be getting a real grip on proceedings, Fox flew into Simoes with a very rash challenge in the middle of the pitch, catching him high, earning a straight red card and setting the scene for an open, high-octane finale with both teams knowing one point wasn’t enough.
Naismith made a brilliant block to deny a powerful Simoes effort, shortly after getting forward himself only to be denied by Williams. The final chances came for the Reds in stoppage time but Marshall kept out a stinging Styles shot before catching a tame Aapo Halme header.
Applying Wigan's 12-point deduction for entering administration, they are three points from safety and Barnsley likewise, with three matches remaining.
Wigan's run of form, spirit and remaining fixtures - struggling Hull City and Charlton Athletic before finishing against Fulham - still give them more than a fighting chance, although they will need to be better than here.
For Barnsley the situation is desperate; having only taken draws from two must-win fixtures this week against Luton Town and now Wigan, they face Leeds United, Nottingham Forest and Brentford, likely requiring at least two wins.
Tale of two tackles
Referee David Webb had two big decisions to make from two horror Wigan tackles, but only one resulted in a red card.
The first was the worst, with Lidewig doing a full flip in the air after being smashed by Robinson. Replays showed it was a reckless high tackle yet only resulted in a yellow card.
Fox’s tackle did rightly result in a dismissal, but Barnsley will be left wondering how things might have been if they faced 10 men for much longer.
Man of the Match: Alex Mowatt (Barnsley)
Barnsley's skipper was all-action, covering every blade of grass, breaking the game up in defence and providing crisp passing.