Villa and Arsenal both had chances to claim victory at Villa Park
Arsenal twice hit the woodwork as they were held to a draw by Aston Villa and missed the chance to return to the top of the Premier League.
In a first half desperately lacking in entertainment, Gabriel Agbonlahor had an early effort well saved and Cesc Fabregas fired against a post.
After the break Stewart Downing headed wide and Tomas Rosicky saw a close-range strike rebound off the crossbar.
Both sides pushed for a winner but lacked a cutting edge in attack.
In the end a point apiece was a fair result, yet neither manager is likely to be happy with their team's failure to emerge victorious.
Villa remain in seventh place and have now not won - or scored - in their last four league matches, while Arsenal stay third, a point behind Manchester United and two behind Chelsea.
With United, Chelsea and Liverpool the Gunners' next three opponents, boss Arsene Wenger was understandably keen to take all three points, but defeat would have been harsh on a resilient and adventurous Villa side.
O'Neill praises 'splendid' Villa
The hosts arrived fresh from securing a place in the Carling Cup final and edging towards another Wembley appearance by reaching the FA Cup fifth round.
And, despite a terribly flat atmosphere at Villa Park, Martin O'Neill's men made a promising start against a side they had beaten only once in their previous 22 meetings.
They lined up in 4-4-2 formation but rather than spending sustained periods in Arsenal territory they instead opted to play on the counter-attack.
Working the ball out to wingers Ashley Young and Downing at every opportunity, Villa continually looked to feed quick ball to strikers Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey.
One such example saw Agbonlahor, whose pace badly troubled Arsenal at home and away last season, sent scurrying into box but his low shot across goal was expertly tipped to safety by Manuel Almunia.
The visitors responded with a first-time effort from Denilson that was well-saved by Brad Friedel but Villa were controlling the tempo and dominating possession.
Ashley Young curled a free-kick narrowly wide and then broke clear on the right after a slip Gael Clichy, only for his cross to be sent high into the stands by an on-rushing Downing.
Wenger had reverted to his strongest available line-up following Sunday's FA Cup defeat at Stoke, yet his team were ponderous in possession and wasteful with their passing.
Arsenal were not helped by the 35th-minute withdrawal of Thomas Vermaelen, whose leg injury gave Sol Campbell his first league outing since 7 May 2006, although they almost went ahead just before half-time.
Fabregas shimmied past Stilian Petrov, stepped outside James Collins and then drilled a low shot across the area, only to see it rebound off Friedel's right-hand post.
Fortunately for all concerned, there was a far more open feel about the second period.
Fabregas almost capitalised on a Friedel's failure to clear a Clichy cross while Downing inexplicably headed wide from Ashley Young's deflected cross when it seemed harder to miss than score.
Wenger frustrated with points dropped
Both sides continued to press for an opener and Ashley Young's header across goal was plucked out of the air by Almunia before a fine run by Andrey Arshavin ended with Rosicky rattling the woodwork.
As the evening wore on, Arsenal began to counter-attack in ominous fashion but lacked precision in front of goal.
Nicklas Bendtner returned from three months out to replace the injured Eduardo on 62 minutes and Samir Nasri was also introduced, but Villa rebuffed all that was thrown at them.
Equally, the home side looked capable of winning it on any one of their forays forward late on - Campbell was not penalised when he appeared to block Richard Dunne's passage to goal - but Arsenal held out.
Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill: "I thought we played splendidly. We haven't had have points on board we probably deserve from our last four games.
"We should have won tonight. We played strongly, kept going and should have won. Arsenal are very fine side but we were terrific.
"We haven't won or scored in four matches but we've had umpteen chances and I'm not concerned. Not just our effort but our play was terrific.
"We've had a tough run of games and have another tough run of games ahead of us now. We're sticking at it and out players have down football club proud in last couple of weeks. We're going to hang in there in the league."
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "We wanted three points, we got one. Maybe we dropped two. But it was a difficult game, Villa made it difficult.
"They stopped us from playing when we had the ball, they played a long-ball game and closed us down. Our passing was not as fluent as usual but we had very good chances. We don't usually miss the chances we missed tonight.
"We know when we come here what we get and we were not disappointed. They play a very efficient English game with long balls and it is very physical. They are a good side at counter attacking.
"The result keeps our unbeaten run going and we have a good opportunity to beat Manchester United on Sunday. We still have the momentum, so let's go into the United game with a desire to win it."
Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill on Wenger's comments: "He has made a few ridiculous statements in his time here (in England) and that is as good as any. That is an appalling insult.
"I thought we played splendidly in the game. Their 'keeper made a great save from Gabby (Agbonlahor) early on and Ashley Young produced some incredible balls into the box that just needed a touch on them.
"Arsenal caused us problems and we had a bit of luck when they hit the post and crossbar but we did not deserve to lose in this game.
"I thought we played splendidly and should have won. We haven't won or scored in four matches but we've had umpteen chances and I'm not concerned."
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