OXFORD United were edged out by Barnsley in an enthralling Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final at Wembley.

Callum O’Dowda headed the underdogs into a half-time lead, but their Sky Bet League One opponents came back strongly after the break.

The unfortunate Chey Dunkley headed an own goal to level the scores, before Ashley Fletcher and the excellent Adam Hammill struck in quick succession.

But United did not go down without a fight and Danny Hylton pulled a goal back 14 minutes from time to set up a grandstand finish where they just failed to force extra time.

The teamsheet showed four changes from the side which drew 0-0 at Cambridge United on Easter Monday.

A groin injury ruled out Joe Skarz, promoting Jordan Evans to left back, while skipper Jake Wright was only fit enough for the bench.

Johnny Mullins shrugged off a hip problem to stay in the side, reverting to centre back as Jonjoe Kenny returned from international duty.

O’Dowda, another who had been away last weekend, replaced Chris Maguire, while up front Danny Hylton was preferred to Jordan Bowery.

While Wembley was two-thirds full, you would have thought it was a capacity crowd from the atmosphere created by both sets of fans.

Finals on the grandest stage in English football can often be cagey affairs early on, but neither side seemed interested in keeping it tight.

United showed no signs of nerves and Evans almost unlocked the defence with a superb through ball in the 11th minute which saw Barnsley goalkeeper Adam Davies gather just ahead of Hylton.

Evans, on loan from Fulham, announced himself to United with a spectacular long-range effort in the JPT against Yeovil Town in December.

The Wales Under 21 international came close to repeating the feat with a 30-yard free-kick, which forced Davies to tip over.

From the resulting corner Mullins had a shot blocked out to Dunkley, whose Cruyff turn in the area caught everyone by surprise, but Barnsley scrambled to clear.

The Tykes looked a threat whenever Hammill found space out wide.

U’s goalkeeper Benji Buchel, who had dealt well with several long throws from Marc Roberts, had to be alert to keep out a dipping volley from Hammill midway through the half.

The game rattled along at an impressively high tempo and on 28 minutes half the ground erupted.

Hylton’s backheel gave Alex MacDonald time to measure a wicked cross, which found O’Dowda at the back post to head home from close range.

The adrenalin was still surging through the winger’s veins with the next attack, when he brushed past George Williams and sent in a low cross which took an excellent last-ditch tackle from Alfie Mawson to deny Kemar Roofe.

Barnsley went on to enjoy the best of the closing stages before half-time.

Winnall came mighty close to an equaliser on 34 minutes with a hooked shot from another Roberts long throw which curled a whisker wide.

United defended well to preserve their lead at the break, but six minutes after the restart they were pegged back.

Danger man Hammill cut on to his right foot and swung in a cross for Winnall which Dunkley inadvertently headed into the corner of the net.

It was a blow for United, who had to weather a storm from a fired-up Barnsley.

They saw off the pressure to get back into the game, but midway through the half the Yorkshire club made the most of a slice of good fortune in the area to take the lead.

Seconds after coming on, Ivan Toney had a shot well blocked by Mullins, but the ball fell kindly for Fletcher to blast home despite the efforts of Buchel and Kenny.

It took an outstanding save from Davies to prevent Liam Sercombe from making it 2-2 almost immediately.

That proved to be a big moment, as 16 minutes from time Hammill appeared to wrap the game up.

When Hylton went down in the Barnsley half many of his teammates stopped, waiting for a foul. But referee Andy Woolmer waved play on and a swift break was stylishly finished by Hammill from the edge of the box.

While United looked down and out, within two minutes they were back in the game when Hylton powered a header past Davies from Roofe’s cross.

In keeping with the rest of the game, Barnsley’s response was to go in search of a fourth goal – with Evans blocking a Hammill shot and Buchel saving Mawson’s free-kick.

Appleton threw on Jordan Bowery and George Waring for a tense finale, but despite six minutes of time added on they could not force extra time.

United can be proud of their efforts against a side from League One – and reaching the third tier is now turn their focus in the final six league games.

Oxford Utd (4-4-2): Buchel, Kenny, Mullins, Dunkley, Evans, MacDonald, Sercombe, Ruffels, O’Dowda, Roofe, Hylton.

Subs used: Maguire (MacDonald 65), Bowery (Hylton 80), Waring (O’Dowda 85).

Unused subs: Slocombe, Wright, Long, Ashby.

Booked: Maguire.

Barnsley (4-4-2): Davies, Williams, Roberts, Mawson, White, Isgrove (Scowen 77), Brownhill, Hourihane, Hammill, Fletcher (Chapman 90), Winnall (Toney 66).

Unused subs: Townsend, Bree, Nyatanga, Watkins.

Booked: None.

Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire).

Attendance: 59,230.