It was an evenl- fought game with both sides having opportunities but Sabri Lamouchi’s men were able to extend their unbeaten run to nine games with a clinical performance, scoring with their only shot on target in the game.
Forest’s first chance of note arrived in the eighth minute. A quick throw put Joao Carvalho clear down the left of the area, he pulled the ball back for Lewis Grabban who uncharacteristically scuffed the chance and Joe Lolley was unable to turn the rebound home under pressure from a Barnsley defender.
The Reds had another chance a minute later as a free kick found Joe Worrall 10 yards out, but he acrobatically volleyed over the bar.
Barnsley responded with a half chance in the 15th minute as a corner found defender Aapo Halme in a good position but his effort was deflected wide.
Forest should have taken the lead in the 26th minute. Watson’s pinpoint pass put Lewis Grabban through on goal but he never looked completely comfortable and his right footed shot went wide of the upright with ‘keeper Brad Collins beaten.
The visitors were going toe-to-toe with their hosts and enjoyed a decent spell in the game around the half hour mark, Jacob Brown having a half chance inside the area in the 35th minute.
Lolley produced spectacular moments on several occasions last term for Forest and he was almost at it again as he met Yuri Ribeiro’s cross with an acrobatic over-head kick but unfortunately the effort flew off target.
With a minute left in the opening period, Barnsley almost got the opener. Luke Thomas used his space to work a shooting opportunity in the area but home ‘keeper Brice Samba was equal to his drive.
Barnsley continued to look the likelier of the two in the early stages of the second period and had several opportunities in quick succession. Toby Sibbick fired wide from 25 yards, Thomas then saw a goal bound shot blocked before Mallik Wilks hit a tame effort from the edge of the area straight at Samba.
Forest were struggling to deal with their opponents from Yorkshire and former Red Daniel Pinillos had a great opportunity from close range but saw his effort saved by Samba at the near post.
That proved to be a costly miss as up the other end, Forest took the lead against the run of play. Matty Cash got clear down the right and his pull back found Watson who fired an emphatic first time shot past Collins.
The Reds introduced Albert Adomah in the second half and he nearly set up their second of the afternoon but after his cross found Carvalho, the Portuguese playmaker was unable to keep his header down.
With just under ten minutes to go, Barnsley were pushing hard for an equaliser. Thomas once again used his pace to get past a defender but his shot from inside the area was parried away by Samba.
The visitors then had a succession of corners, the last of which ended with Patrick Schmidt glancing a header just wide of the far post.
Mallik Wilks found himself in a brilliant position and looked set to fire Barnsley level but a crucial block by Reds captain Michael Dawson preferred Forest’s advantage.
Barnsley continued to throw everything at Forest but the Reds were able to stand firm under immense pressure to secure a vital three points.
FOREST XI (4-1-4-1): Samba (GK); Cash, Worrall, Dawson ©, Ribeiro; Watson; Lolley (Semedo 81’), Sow, Silva (Adomah 60’), Carvalho (Ameobi 70’); Grabban
SUBS NOT USED: Muric (GK), Figueiredo, Bostock, Semedo, Robinson
BARNSLEY XI: Collins (GK), Williams (Chaplin 71’), Andersen, Brown, Woodrow (Schmidt 71’), Thomas, Sibbick, Pinillos, Halme (McGeehan 77’), Mowatt ©, Wilks
SUBS NOT USED: Walton (GK), Bahre, Oduor, Thiam
REFEREE: Jarred Gillett
ATTENDANCE: 29,202 (1,952 away)
FOREST MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Joe Worrall