Phil Brown suffered defeat in his first home game in charge of The Bluebirds as in-form promotion-chasers Port Vale snatched a late winner at The Dunes Hotel Stadium.
Barrow produced a performance full of heart and spirit and looked on course for a big victory when Josh Kay celebrated his return to the line-up after injury with a dazzling opening goal.
However, Jamie Proctor volleyed in a leveller for the visitors after the break before Aaron Martin was in the right place at the right time to convert from close range two minutes from time to win it for The Valiants.
Brown opted to make three changes to his starting line-up as Josh Kay came back in after injury, while Tom Beadling returned from suspension and Anthony Glennon replaced the injured Patrick Brough.
A scrappy start to the game saw few clearcut chances but Vale’s Brad Walker almost provided a spark on seven minutes when he drilled a powerful shot from 25 yards which cannoned back off the post, struck Paul Farman on the back and then was cleared behind.
The Bluebirds began to settle into the game and had a couple of chances when Matt Platt first glanced a header wide via a deflection before planting another header straight at keeper Aidan Stone from the resultant corner.
On 17 minutes, Beadling almost opened the scoring when he ran on to a loose ball and fired a low shot just wide after Glennon’s hanging cross from the left wasn’t dealt with by the Vale defence.
The breakthrough arrived on 24 minutes when a high ball found Kay who took a perfect first touch before jinking inside away from his defender and firing a precise shot into the bottom corner of the net for 1-0.
The Bluebirds were good value for their lead and held it right through until the hour mark when Vale sprung brilliantly on the counterattack down the left and a hanging cross to the far post was met on the volley by Jamie Proctor and it flashed past Farman for 1-1.
Instantly, Vale should have been in front. James Wilson was put away clean through on goal and looked odds on to score only to send a low effort past the post and let Barrow off the hook.
John Rooney lofted a long-range free kick over the wall and just wide of the post as The Bluebirds tried to recover their composure before Farman had to dash from his line to brilliantly deny substitute Kian Harratt.
The game became more and more open as time wore on, with Brown throwing Josh Gordon and Luke James on as he looked for the win, and things remained in the balance as time ticked away.
There was heartbreak for Barrow on 89 minutes when Wilson slalomed past the home defence of the area and his ball across found its way to Aaron Martin at the far post and he was able to tap home from close range for 2-1.
Full Time: Barrow 1 Port Vale 2
Barrow: Farman, Hutton, Platt, Canavan, Glennon (Gordon 73), Banks, Gotts, Beadling, Rooney (James 73), Kay, Amadi-Holloway.
Subs: Lillis, Grayson, J Jones, Taylor.
Booked: Canavan, Farman.
Port Vale: Stone, Walker, Hall, Smith, Worrall (Edmondson 87), Wilson (Taylor 94), Benning, Proctor, Martin, Amoo (Harratt 60), Charsley.
Subs not used: Holy, Hurst, Robinson.
Booked: Hall, Walker.
Referee: James Oldham
Attendance: 3,215 (575 Port Vale)