Andrei Arshavin's debut failed to help misfiring Arsenal conjure up a goal as they played out another frustrating goalless draw against Sunderland at Emirates Stadium.
The Russian - signed on deadline day from Zenit St Petersburg - saw an early low shot fly just wide, before Marton Fulop beat away his angled drive.
Sunderland, though, battled well, and in the end were worth a share of the spoils as the Gunners - who hit four in the FA Cup against Cardiff here on Monday night - again could not break down a stubborn top-flight defence and missed the chance to close the gap on the top four with a third successive goalless draw in the Barclays Premier League.
Chelsea's 1-0 win at Aston Villa earlier meant the Gunners - unbeaten in 12 matches before this afternoon - had a chance to make up ground in the race for Champions League qualification.
However, despite again having plenty of possession, a Kolo Toure header cleared off the line in the first half was a close as they got.
It was, though, almost a dream start when Arshavin picked up a stray pass from Andy Reid and charged towards the penalty area, before unleashing a low drive which flew inches wide.
Arsenal were working hard when not in possession, denying Sunderland space to create forward momentum.
Robin van Persie was released into the left side of the penalty box by Denilson after 11 minutes.
The Dutchman - with 14 goals so far - took the ball around keeper Fulop, but then could only watch as his clipped effort curled just off target.
Arshavin cut inside and drilled an angled shot goalwards from the edge of the penalty area, which Fulop pushed away at full stretch.
There was a warning for the Gunners when Sunderland broke quickly and released Anton Ferdinand down the right, whose drive was beaten out by Manuel Almunia.
Reid then left fly with a 25-yard effort, which soared over before Dean Whitehead forced a decent save from Almunia as the hosts were pushed on the defensive for the first time in the match.
Arshavin was slipped in down the right. His cutback from the goalline picked out Nicklas Bendtner in the six-yard box, and Fulop had to get down quickly to turn the ball around the post.
At the end of the first half, Toure sent a far-post header goalwards following a corner from the right - only for Sunderland midfielder Reid to clear it off the line.
Following the restart, Arsenal continued to build a sustained period of pressure, if without troubling the Sunderland defence in the final third.
Arshavin floated over a ball into the penalty area from the right flank, but it was just too far ahead of Bendtner.
With 27 minutes left, the Russian was given a well-earned rest when he was replaced by Carlos Vela, who moved to the left as Nasri switched flanks.
The young Mexican almost had an instant impact when his cross flew across the six-yard box and would only have needed a touch into the net.
When George McCartney fouled Bacary Sagna in the right-hand corner, Van Persie whipped in the free-kick, which the keeper had to push behind his near post for a corner.
Vela dragged a left-foot shot across goal when the ball dropped to him in the six-yard box.
The Mexican again failed to hit the target when picked out by Van Persie following a pass alongside the edge of the penalty area.
Full-back Gael Clichy picked up an injury and was replaced by Kieran Gibbs for the final few minutes, as the Gunners again were left frustrated with William Gallas dragging a close-range effort wide in stoppage time.
Arsene Wenger admitted shot-shy Arsenal were ''nervous'' after they failed to score in the Premier League for a third successive game - but maintained the Gunners can still force their way back into the top four.
''They tried to frustrate us and did that. We missed chances early and late in
the game and we became nervous in front of goal,'' said the Arsenal manager.
''The attitude is very good among the players but in the final third we are not
as efficient as we could be.
''Our passing is sometimes not incisive enough. Maybe the strikers are not
alerted quickly enough.
''We were not quick or relaxed enough and, overall, it's difficult.
''Teams come here and play just one colossus up front and we have got to learn
to cope with that.''
Wenger, though, insists all is not yet lost as Arsenal seek to maintain their
proud record of playing in Europe's elite competition each season for a decade.
''We are six points behind Villa, but there is still a long way to go. We are
not sitting here with just three games left,'' said Wenger, whose side resume
their European campaign at home to Roma on Tuesday night.
''Villa have difficult fixtures and we can come back. We also want to go as far
as we can in the Champions League.''
Arshavin was taken off just after the hour mark, the Russian still working on
his match sharpness following a transfer deadline day move from Zenit St
It was almost a dream start for the diminutive midfielder when he picked up a
stray pass from Andy Reid and charged towards the penalty area, before
unleashing a low drive which flew inches wide.
Arshavin later forced a good save from the busy Marton Fulop with a fierce
Wenger believes there is more to come from the 27-year-old playmaker.
''Arshavin showed in glimpses that he has talent and he will be a player,''
said the Arsenal manager.
''He has shown as well he is not ready physically, but that will come.
''You could see if he was more on the ball, he can affect the game.
''You feel something will happen in the final third when he has the ball and he
could have scored two goals in the first half.
''I see him playing everywhere around the strikers.''
Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia admitted his side had been somewhat fortunate
to come away with a point.
The visitors defended in numbers when needed but also had chances of their own,
especially in the first half when Anton Ferdinand and captain Dean Whitehead got
clear on the counter.
''We had a game plan but also we had a lot of luck, but sometimes you need that
when you come to places like this,'' said Sbragia, his side now unbeaten in
their last four Premier League games.
''They missed some chances and maybe were not clinical enough, perhaps a bit
wild with their finishing, and on another day they could have won by four or
''Coming here we knew we would be under pressure, which is why we tried to
frustrate them, but we also had some counter-attacks as well in the first half,
so to come here and get a point, I am delighted.''