The visitors made the perfect start when Sean Maguire’s back-post header squeezed over the line after less than two minutes.
But Preston, with the division’s worst defence, always looked at risk of conceding and Barnsley skipper Alex Mowatt levelled early in the second half with a stylish finish from the edge of the box.
The home side in the ascendancy thereafter and substitute Victor Adeboyejo won the match with a fine angled finish 10 minutes from time.
Story of the match
While Barnsley came into the match in good form since the appointment of Valerien Ismael as head coach, Preston have become an unpredictable force, no better summed up than in the previous week where a 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough was followed by an overturning by the same score at Luton Town.
Which Preston side would turn up was the big question, and it was certainly a different one with no fewer than five changes made by manager Alex Neil. One of those recalled to the starting line-up went some way to answering with a goal inside the first two minutes.
It came in unusual circumstances as Paul Gallagher’s corner was only flicked on by Cauley Woodrow to Maguire who, free at the back post, headed towards goal. Goalkeeper Jack Walton pushed it away but too late, as visiting players screamed that the ball had crossed the line and referee Dean Whitestone eventually agreed with them.
Often an early goal can bring a game to life but not so here, with Preston carrying some threat from quick forward balls but not troubling the defence too much, while Barnsley struggled to settle into their rhythm.
The hosts did have some good chances, with Michael Sollbauer finding himself free at a Callum Styles corner only to power his header wide of the post. Styles had an excellent opportunity himself, but lacked composure as he lifted a volley over the bar from an excellent lofted Matty James pass.
Despite creating little since the opener, Preston would have gone into the break with a two-goal lead if not for Walton. Emil Riis beat Sollbauer to a loose ball at the back and advanced into the box, but his effort was denied by a fantastic low reaction save.
After a tepid first half Barnsley showed some improvement at the start of the second, with Woodrow drilling into the side netting before an equalising goal came moments later.
Like so often, the skipper’s inspiration was required, and not for the first time it came in the form of a beautiful strike. Mowatt received the ball from Styles 20 yards out and swung his left foot with pace, power and most of all precision, to angle the ball into the far corner.
They might have soon seen their hard work undone when Walton was required again, blocking an effort on goal from Josh Earl with his legs before the defender placed his second bite at the cherry over the bar.
As a host of substitutions began to enter the fray it was only the home side building momentum and seeing a positive effect, and they got the biggest possible impact from one of them. Woodrow played in Adeboyejo and the Nigerian produced a decisive finish across Rudd and into the bottom corner.
Man of the match: Mads Andersen (Barnsley)
With the attacking gameplan of both teams revolving around quick forward movement of the ball, the two defences needed to be on high alert throughout.
The best of the lot, and taking this award for second match running, is young Mads Andersen for another exceptionally consistently performance on the left of the Barnsley back three.