Manchester City drew a blank for the second time this week to lose vital ground in the title race with a 0-0 draw against Norwich City.
Manuel Pellegrini's previously free-scoring side – who last month reached 100 goals in all competitions faster than any team in the Premier League era - have run into unforeseen problems in their last two outings, losing the Premier League's top spot to Chelsea in the process.
A 1-0 loss at home to Jose Mourinho's side on Monday was compounded by another lacklustre display at Carrow Road – the absence of Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho due to a muscle strain once again keenly felt.
Alvaro Negredo headed a first-half corner against the crossbar but clear chances were in short supply as Norwich claimed an unexpected point in their fight for top-flight survival.
A win would have taken the 2012 champions top following Arsenal's 5-1 thrashing at Anfield, but Chelsea are now in the driving seat after easing past Newcastle 3-0.
On-loan Fenerbahce defender Joseph Yobo made his Norwich debut as a thigh injury ruled out Ryan Bennett.
James Milner returned from a groin complaint to bolster the visitors' injury-hit midfield, while Stevan Jovetic got the nod over Edin Dzeko to make his second Premier League start of the season in attack.
A prone Yobo scrambled to safety as playmaker David Silva appeared poised to convert Gael Clichy's early cross for Pellegrin's men, but the recalled France full-back was caught out in the 16th minute.
Norwich winger burst Nathan Redmond burst into the box when Clichy failed to cut out Gary Hooper's pass but blazed high and wide.
Hooper had the ball in the net two minutes later but was lurking in an offside position after Joe Hart parried Leroy Fer's header from a Redmond corner.
Manchester City came close from a similar dead-ball situation in the 36th minute – Negredo heading onto the crossbar following a Martin Demichelis flick-on from Jesus Navas' delivery.
Negredo crashed a rasping long-ranger into the side netting and, by the time John Ruddy kept out a stinging 20-yard strike from Jovetic in the 43rd minute, Pellegrini's charges were showing signs of hitting their stride.
Their customary rhythm remained largely elusive as the second half got under way, but Norwich full-back Martin Olsson produced an excellent last-ditch challenge to thwart Navas.
Russell Martin then positioned himself well to stop Jovetic converting Milner's looping right-wing cross.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel arrived from the bench after 68 minutes in place of Hooper, who hobbled away from a robust Milner challenge, but Norwich had faded as an attacking force by that point, though their excellent organisation continued to confound the title hopefuls.
Dzeko, on for Jovetic, pulled a shot into the side netting at the end of another fruitless attack and Pellegrini was left to rue a golden opportunity missed, while Van Wolfswinkle and Anthony Pilkington were both agonisingly close to handing Norwich an unlikely triumph.
|Coach: C. Hughton|
for G. Hooper 68'
for A. Pilkington 90+3'
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