Chelsea's attempt to temporarily replace Arsenal at the top of the Premiership was frustrated by a determined Southampton side who held the Blues to a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge.
It was Chelsea's sixth consecutive home clean sheet, but despite good chances falling to Gianfranco Zola and substitute William Gallas and Marcel Desailly in the closing stages, the Saints deserved a share of the spoils after matching their opponents all afternoon.
Both sides had gone into this match on the back of unbeaten runs, Chelsea's now stretches to 11 while Southampton's is six, so perhaps a draw was inevitable. It was certainly a fair result after a closely-fought encounter which neither team ever really did enough to win.
Southampton had made the brighter start, but it was the inspirational Zola who missed a golden opportunity to give Chelsea the lead in the 12th minute when he somehow fired against the outside of the post from just six yards after being found unmarked by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's low cross.
Southampton's best chance also came in the first half when James Beattie was found by Jo Tessem's header from Bridge's 36th-minute free-kick, but the visitors' leading scorer could only volley over the crossbar after turning well.
Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri had made six changes to his team for the match as he opted to rest several players including Frank Lampard and William Gallas with trips to Leeds and Arsenal coming up in the next week.
After a dull start, the game began to open up and in the 25th minute, Petit found de Lucas, but the midfielder's half-volley was easily held by Saints goalkeeper Antti Niemi and moments later, Hasselbaink fired over after being fed by Zola.
Matthew Oakley went close for the Saints with a well-struck 35-yard drive, as both sides began to find their rhythm.
In the 35th minute, Zola, Hasselbaink and Zenden combined well on the edge of the box and it was the Italian who was presented with a decent chance from Zenden's clever flick, but he scuffed his shot straight at Niemi.
The Saints then had two excellent chances to take the lead. First, centre-back Michael Svensson met Fabrice Fernandes' flicked-on free-kick, but his drilled effort was well saved by Ed de Goey, who was making his first appearance of the season as a result of Carlo Cudicini's calf injury.
A minute later, Beattie fluffed his lines by volleying over from close range and four minutes before the break, Hasselbaink rolled the ball into the path of de Lucas, but the Spaniard's 20-yard drive sailed narrowly over the crossbar.
On the stroke of half-time, de Lucas was freed by Zola, but he was thwarted by a tremendous last-ditch tackle from Saints skipper Marsden.
The second half took its time to get going and Ranieri was becoming increasingly frustrated in the dug-out as his side continued to be denied by the Saints.
The Blues were able to find Zenden and de Lucas in wide positions regularly, but their centres lacked the quality to test Michael Svensson and Lundekvam at the heart of the visitors' defence.
Zola almost conjured up something special in the 65th minute, but his rising, 25-yard shot after a promising run, flew over Niemi's crossbar.
But it was Southampton who almost took the lead in the 75th-minute when centre-back Svensson toe-poked a shot which deflected off Beattie, but de Goey did well to save with his legs.
Hasselbaink spurned the next chance as he raced free thanks to Zola's accurate pass, but delayed his shot too long and could only fire the ball across the face of the goal.
With six minutes left, Lampard replaced Zenden and Gallas came on for Melchiot for Chelsea and Gallas almost snatched the three points in the 89th minute, but his close-range shot was superbly turned away by Niemi.
And in a frantic finale, Petit's corner was not cleared and in the ensuing goalmouth scramble, John Terry saw his shot cannon back off Gallas before Desailly, returning from injury, hooked the ball over the crossbar from just three yards out.
It was that kind of afternoon for Chelsea.
Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri was far from disappointed with his side's failure to keep the pressure on leaders Arsenal.
He said: 'I'm pleased with our performance because it was a very difficult
game and the pitch was very bad.
'Southampton have good organisation and play altogether and narrow and very
'It was difficult for us to build the action. The first thing was to maintain
the balance on the pitch and then try to build.'
After a late seige on the Saints goal, the Italian was unsure as to how his team had failed to score: 'We created some chances to score and I think in the last chance there were two goalkeepers!
'But it's okay, last season we lost 4-2 against them so it's a little
Saints manager Gordon Strachan was delighted with his team's display,
especially their first-half performance in which they more than matched their
He said: 'We had better chances than them in the first half. When we had to
attack we were good and when we had to defend we were good.
'In the second half we did well as we had to stand up and be counted. We
played to our strengths on the pitch, but we were comfortable.'
Strachan was quick to praise goalkeeper Antti Niemi, who saved well from
Gallas close to the end of the match, and strikers Jo Tessem and James Beattie,
as his side fought hard to claim their point.
'It was a fantastic save so he's done very well and I thought the two
strikers in the first half were excellent. They made sure they didn't have it