City boss Bryan Gunn might have had just reason to grumble with officialdom of late.
The fact that the official in charge of the Sheffield Wednesday fixture felt sufficiently mortified by his incorrect decision to rule out David Mooney's 'goal' that he took it upon himself to ring up the Canary chief afterwards to apologise merely summed up Gunn's frustrations – that his every best intention to pull his beloved City team out of the relegation mire was being thwarted by the men in black.
His fury blazed brightly in his eyes after Sunday's derby defeat at Ipswich Town where, once again, one, big decision had conspired to send the Norfolk side ever nearer League One.
Last night, however, and he found a knight in shining black armour in the shape of assistant referee Martin Dexter who – four minutes into added on time at the end of Barnsley's trip to Coventry City – spotted a handball by Reds defender Rob Kozluk.
Flag waved, referee Steven Cook pointed to the spot and Elliot Ward lashed home the penalty. Having taken a ninth minute lead through Maltese striker Daniel Bogdanovic, that one decision ripped two, priceless points out of Barnsley's hands. The South Yorkshire side are now only two points better off than the Canaries with just two games left.
Given that their final game is away at Plymouth, one or either of Norwich's nearest relegation rivals will not now pick up maximum points from their last two games. One from either Barnsley or Plymouth will finish the season, at best, four points better off.
More importantly, the belief and the momentum that those three points would have given Simon Davey's men was lost. The Barnsley dressing room would have been a morgue afterwards as one and all contemplated a complete kick in the tender parts from cruel Miss Fortune.
Back in Norfolk and Gunn's delight can only be imagined. As he insisted after that derby defeat, there would still be plenty a twist and a turn to come as Norwich fought that drop into the third tier of English football. Few, however, would have expected events to take such a dramatic twist as they did at the Ricoh late last night.
“We have got to make sure the result and the lateness of the penalty does not affect us,” said a devastated Davey afterwards, with Kozluk insisting that Mr Dexter had made a wrong call.
Barnsley now play host to Wolves this weekend in their final home game of the season. For the Canaries – who play again 48 hours later with that home clash against Reading – the home has to be that Mick McCarthy's men celebrate their promotion to the Premiership by securing the title at Oakwell and leave Norwich with the chance to overhaul the Reds come Monday night.
It is all ifs, buts and maybes now, but Ward's late, late strike makes all things still possible.
“I thought we did enough to win and take the three points,” added Davey, as he spoke to reporters afterwards.
“We had some great chances and got our goal early and when we needed to defend we defended. It's cruel,” he added. “But we know what we've got to do to make sure of our status.”
For his Swansea schoolboy pal Chris Coleman, the point was the least that his Sky Blues side deserved after Ward had earlier rattled the bar with a header.
That said, his heart still went out to the Reds boss as that late strike condemned the visitors to an uncertain future at the very foot of the Championship – just as it gave the watching Canaries one, last straw to cling to.
“It's harsh for Simon, we have all been there. It will be a tough one for him to swallow I imagine,” said Coleman.
“He is good enough to keep Barnsley up in the league and he is big enough to take any criticism,” added the Sky Blues boss after Davey was subject to a torrent of 'We want Davey out!' abuse after that 3-1 home defeat by Swansea.
As for Coventry, they at least proved that they weren't quite at the beach yet. They pushed on till the very end and to Norwich's immense relief duly picked up their reward courtesy of that eagle-eyed linesman.
“There was no lack of effort tonight,” said Coleman. “We kept going and kept going and we got a point.”
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