Liverpool and Manchester City fought out a draw at Anfield that failed to provide compelling evidence to support the claims of either club to finish in the Premier League's top four.
The game sparked to life with four second-half goals after a first 45 minutes that was a monument to mediocrity - but both Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez and his Manchester City counterpart Mark Hughes will see a draw as two points lost.
Liverpool had already lost Daniel Agger and Ryan Babel to injury when Martin Skrtel turned in Steven Gerrard's free-kick to give them the lead after 50 minutes.
But City, encouraged by Liverpool's apparent willingness to sit back on their advantage and enlivened by the belated introduction of Carlos Tevez for Gareth Barry, levelled on 69 minutes when Emmanuel Adebayor headed home from Craig Bellamy's corner.
Stephen Ireland's close-range finish, converted as Liverpool appealed in vain for offside, gave City a lead they barely deserved, but they were then guilty of a loss of concentration as Yossi Benayoun turned in David Ngog's deflected cross to make sure the points were shared.
We showed character - Benitez
Lucas wasted a glorious chance to give Liverpool victory deep into stoppage time when he rose unmarked to meet Gerrard's corner, only to head wide.
It ensured City, who lost captain Kolo Toure injured at half-time, extended their recent sequence to six successive Premier League draws, equalling their top-flight record set in 1913.
And for Liverpool, it was the latest day of frustration in front of their own fans at Anfield - compounded by another lengthening of their injury list.
City had hoped to use a visit to Liverpool to confirm their credentials as genuine challengers to the Premier League's established order, but a lifeless first hour and the resurfacing of defensive frailties demonstrated there is still much work to do.
Liverpool captain Gerrard, as expected, was fit after the groin injury that has troubled him recently, but once again Fernando Torres was ruled out by a hernia.
City boss Hughes left Tevez on the bench - and how the visitors cried out for his industry and inspiration in a turgid opening 45 minutes.
Liverpool had the first chance to make a breakthrough after only six minutes, but Skrtel's header was turned to safety by Shay Given after Gerrard's delivery had flicked off the head of Toure.
It proved to be an expensive moment for Liverpool as Agger clashed heads with Toure in the incident and was stretchered off with concussion, forcing Benitez to introduce Greek defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos.
As if Liverpool's injury list was not long enough, Babel then saw a rare Anfield start curtailed by a foot injury after he accidentally collided with Gerrard on the edge of the City penalty area. He attempted to continue but eventually limped off, to be replaced by Benayoun.
Gerrard, predictably, was providing Liverpool's best hope and he almost enlivened the grim proceedings with a rising shot that flew over in front of an expectant Kop.
City, for all their lavish spending, were woefully short of attacking ideas, with Shaun Wright-Phillips being particularly wasteful in possession. He had their best opportunity 10 minutes before the interval when he was played in just inside the Liverpool area, but he failed to hit the target.
City suffered an injury blow themselves when captain Toure failed to appear at the start of the second half, with Nedum Onuoha coming on.
And their problems increased after 50 minutes when Skrtel took advantage of poor City defending - an Achilles heel this season - to give Liverpool the lead.
Pablo Zabaleta was penalised for fouling Ngog, and when Gerrard's free-kick was swerved in with menace, Skrtel got ahead of Adebayor to apply the crucial final touch and grab his first Liverpool goal.
City boss Hughes, having watched in frustration as his side failed to make any impact on Liverpool's re-shaped defence, made a change on the hour when he sent on Tevez for Barry.
Hughes frustrated by draw
Liverpool had helped City's cause by appearing to sit back on their lead, and they paid the penalty in familiar fashion after 69 minutes.
Adebayor was allowed to rise unhindered and direct Bellamy's corner past Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina, to the obvious disgust of Benitez in the technical area and delight of Hughes.
And the turnaround was complete with 14 minutes left as Ireland stole in on a cross from Wright-Phillips from a suspiciously offside position to put City ahead - but as their fans celebrated there was another swift twist in the tale.
Ngog's cross took a deflection that took Given out of position, allowing Benayoun to slide in at the far post and score with the simplest of finishes.
Liverpool held sway in the closing stages and forced a succession of corners, with Lucas heading a presentable chance wide with virtually the final action of a game that sparked into life after the break.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez: "You cannot be happy with a home draw, but to lose three players from your game plan is very difficult.
"And of course we had three players on the bench who have been for treatment in Belgrade and had not been training with the team.
"It is not easy to manage, but the reaction of the players was fantastic. You cannot ask for more from players in such a position."
Manchester City boss Mark Hughes: "We restricted Liverpool to a very few opportunities but the ones they did have, they scored from.
"But we restricted their influential players from having an impact on the game.
"We were good on the break and carried a real threat in the second period when Carlos Tevez came on. Carlos gave us a real energy.
"My players are disappointed, they had an opportunity to win. Scoring twice and getting a point at Anfield is something you would normally be happy with."
90:00+3:10 Steven Gerrard takes the outswinging corner, Leiva Lucas takes a shot.
90:00+2:42 Outswinging corner taken left-footed by Fabio Aurelio, clearance made by Nedum Onuoha.
90:00+0:19 Foul by Emmanuel Adebayor on Sotirios Kyrgiakos, free kick awarded. Martin Skrtel takes the direct free kick.
89:31 Dirk Kuyt sends in a cross, Nedum Onuoha manages to make a clearance.
89:10 Outswinging corner taken by Fabio Aurelio, Wayne Bridge manages to make a clearance.
89:03 The ball is crossed by Steven Gerrard, clearance made by Shaun Wright-Phillips.
88:30 Steven Gerrard takes the outswinging corner, clearance made by Nigel De Jong.
84:40 Free kick crossed left-footed by Fabio Aurelio from right wing.
84:40 Substitution Yossi Benayoun leaves the field to be replaced by Fabio Aurelio.
84:40 Dirk Kuyt fouled by Wayne Bridge, the ref awards a free kick.
83:16 Effort from the edge of the box by Craig Bellamy goes wide of the left-hand post.
80:49 Foul by Leiva Lucas on Stephen Ireland, free kick awarded. Shay Given takes the free kick.
80:14 Effort on goal by Shaun Wright-Phillips from 20 yards. Yossi Benayoun gets a block in. Carlos Tevez takes a shot. Jose Reina
makes a save.
79:37 Shot by Shaun Wright-Phillips. Save made by Jose Reina.
77:59 Carlos Tevez concedes a free kick for a foul on Steven Gerrard. Javier Mascherano takes the free kick.
76:51 Assist by David Ngog.
76:51 GOAL - Yossi Benayoun:Liverpool 2 - 2 Man City Yossi Benayoun finds the net with a goal from inside the six-yard box to the bottom left corner of the goal. Liverpool 2-2
75:39 The assist for the goal came from Shaun Wright-Phillips.
75:39 GOAL - Stephen Ireland:Liverpool 1 - 2 Man City Goal scored by Stephen Ireland from close in to the bottom right corner of the goal. Liverpool 1-2 Man City.
73:59 David Ngog has an effort at goal from outside the penalty box missing to the wide left of the goal.
73:07 Javier Mascherano fouled by Emmanuel Adebayor, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Martin Skrtel.
70:22 Centre by Shaun Wright-Phillips.
68:42 Craig Bellamy provided the assist for the goal.
68:42 GOAL - Emmanuel Adebayor:Liverpool 1 - 1 Man City Emmanuel Adebayor finds the net with a headed goal from deep inside the penalty area. Liverpool 1-1 Man City.
68:21 Inswinging corner taken by Craig Bellamy from the left by-line,
66:55 The ball is sent over by Stephen Ireland, save by Jose Reina.
66:07 Corner taken by Craig Bellamy from the right by-line to the near post, Emiliano Insua makes a clearance.
62:37 Wayne Bridge takes the direct free kick.
62:37 Booking Leiva Lucas is given a yellow card.
62:21 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Carlos Tevez by Leiva Lucas.
61:32 Corner taken by Steven Gerrard from the right by-line, Nedum Onuoha makes a clearance.
60:21 Substitution Carlos Tevez replaces Gareth Barry.
58:36 Craig Bellamy takes a inswinging corner to the near post, save by Jose Reina.
57:09 Wayne Bridge crosses the ball, Dirk Kuyt gets a block in.
55:45 Foul by Gareth Barry on Javier Mascherano, free kick awarded. Jose Reina takes the free kick.
54:42 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Stephen Ireland by Leiva Lucas. Stephen Ireland takes the direct free kick.
54:06 Sotirios Kyrgiakos challenges Gareth Barry unfairly and gives away a free kick. Pablo Zabaleta restarts play with the free
51:03 A cross is delivered by Shaun Wright-Phillips, Martin Skrtel makes a clearance.
50:35 Leiva Lucas challenges Stephen Ireland unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Pablo Zabaleta.
49:10 The assist for the goal came from Steven Gerrard.
49:10 GOAL - Martin Skrtel:Liverpool 1 - 0 Man City Martin Skrtel finds the net with a goal from inside the six-yard box low into the middle of the goal. Liverpool 1-0 Man City.
48:30 Free kick awarded for a foul by Pablo Zabaleta on David Ngog. Centre by Steven Gerrard,
47:35 Drilled right-footed shot by Steven Gerrard. Joleon Lescott gets a block in.
46:30 Gareth Barry challenges Leiva Lucas unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Jose Reina.
45:30 Foul by Emmanuel Adebayor on Martin Skrtel, free kick awarded. Sotirios Kyrgiakos takes the free kick.
45:01 The referee gets the second half started.
45:01 Substitution (Man City) makes a substitution, with Nedum Onuoha coming on for Kolo Toure.
45:00+6:07 The first half comes to an end.
45:00+4:59 Emmanuel Adebayor gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Emiliano Insua. Jose Reina restarts play with the free
45:00+4:13 Centre by Steven Gerrard, save by Shay Given.
45:00+3:42 Foul by Gareth Barry on Dirk Kuyt, free kick awarded. Jamie Carragher restarts play with the free kick.
45:00+2:55 Emmanuel Adebayor concedes a free kick for a foul on Martin Skrtel. Direct free kick taken by Martin Skrtel.
45:00+0:52 Pablo Zabaleta concedes a free kick for a foul on Yossi Benayoun. Direct free kick taken by Yossi Benayoun.
42:41 Emmanuel Adebayor is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Martin Skrtel restarts play with the free kick.
39:47 Martin Skrtel gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Emmanuel Adebayor. Direct free kick taken by Wayne Bridge.
39:23 Javier Mascherano sends in a cross, Joleon Lescott makes a clearance.
39:14 Centre by Dirk Kuyt, clearance made by Wayne Bridge.
38:31 Stephen Ireland produces a cross, Jamie Carragher manages to make a clearance.
37:35 Drilled right-footed shot by Javier Mascherano. Shay Given makes a comfortable save.
35:07 Shaun Wright-Phillips has an effort at goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the right-hand post.
31:02 Dirk Kuyt has an effort at goal from 20 yards. Blocked by Wayne Bridge. Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard
from the left by-line to the near post, Martin Skrtel has a headed effort at goal from close in which goes wide right of the
28:15 David Ngog is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Shay Given takes the free kick.
27:01 Effort from the edge of the area by Steven Gerrard goes wide of the right-hand upright.
26:23 The referee blows for offside against Emmanuel Adebayor. Free kick taken by Jose Reina.
20:53 Emmanuel Adebayor is ruled offside. Sotirios Kyrgiakos takes the indirect free kick.
17:45 Substitution Yossi Benayoun is brought on as a substitute for Ryan Babel.
17:45 Shot from long range by Stephen Ireland misses to the right of the target.
16:52 Wayne Bridge takes the free kick.
16:52 Booking Jamie Carragher goes into the referee's book.
16:44 Unfair challenge on Craig Bellamy by Jamie Carragher results in a free kick.
10:20 Free kick taken by Nigel De Jong.
10:20 Substitution Sotirios Kyrgiakos joins the action as a substitute, replacing Daniel Agger.
10:20 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Shaun Wright-Phillips by Steven Gerrard.
10:03 Gareth Barry takes a shot. Jose Reina makes a save.
3:40 Dirk Kuyt fouled by Gareth Barry, the ref awards a free kick. Steven Gerrard crosses the ball, Martin Skrtel takes a shot.
Save made by Shay Given. Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard from the right by-line to the near post,
Gareth Barry makes a clearance.
2:26 Steven Gerrard handles the ball and concedes a free kick. Pablo Zabaleta takes the free kick.
1:36 Unfair challenge on Wayne Bridge by David Ngog results in a free kick. Wayne Bridge takes the direct free kick.
0:00 The game begins.
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