Callum Hudson-Odoi survived VAR penalty call drama as Chelsea and Manchester United played out a 0-0 stalemate at Stamford Bridge, which did neither side any real favours towards their Premier League goals this season.
The hosts, who remain unbeaten in their nine games under Thomas Tuchel, missed out on a chance to go into the top four, while United's hopes of catching leaders Manchester City are fading fast, with the gap now 12 points.
The major talking point came 14 minutes in when Hudson-Odoi handled in the Blues' box but, after a VAR check advised referee Stuart Attwell to watch a replay on the pitchside monitor, he decided against awarding a penalty - a decision which infuriated United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
David de Gea made a sharp save to keep out Hakim Ziyech early in the second half and Edouard Mendy dealt with Scott McTominay's firm effort not long after, but there was no way through and the teams settled for what is becoming a familiar scoreline in contests between the top sides this season.
This was United's fifth 0-0 against 'big six' opposition from seven fixtures, including each of their last four. They will have to be more clinical when they go to Manchester City next Sunday, after their midweek trip to Crystal Palace, if they're to keep their faint title hopes alive.
Chelsea: Mendy (7), Azpilicueta (6), Rudiger (7), Christensen (7), Hudson-Odoi (7), Chilwell (6), Mount (7), Kante (7), Kovacic (6), Ziyech (7), Giroud (6),
Subs: James (7), Pulisic (6), Werner (6)
Man Utd: De Gea (7), Wan-Bissaka (6), Lindelof (7), Maguire (6), Shaw (7), McTominay (7), Fred (6), Fernandes (6), James (6), Greenwood (7), Rashford (7)
Subs: Martial (6)
Man of the match: N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
How the draw played out
The result did mean United's club-record unbeaten away run has stretched to 20 games and it began with a 2-0 win at Chelsea in February 2020. However, it was the Stamford Bridge side on the front foot early on this time, with a couple of crosses just escaping Olivier Giroud's finishing touch and Mason Mount seeing a shot blocked.
But United's form on the road has been founded on their counter-attacking play and it took some smart defending from Ben Chilwell to prevent Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood combining on a quick break 10 minutes in.
Those two United attackers were involved in the controversial VAR call moments later, when Greenwood tried to latch onto a loose ball after Mendy parried Rashford's fierce free-kick and Hudson-Odoi handled the ball in the Chelsea box.
After a check from Stockley Park, referee Attwell went to the pitchside monitor but opted not to give a penalty - to the visitors' frustration and the bemusement of Solskjaer, who was still discussing the issue with the officials at the start of the second half.
- Olivier Giroud started up front after his goal in the Champions League, while Callum Hudson-Odoi, Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell and Andreas Christensen all starting.
- Mason Greenwood started ahead of Anthony Martial for Man Utd, with Scott McTominay fit to play ahead of Nemanja Matic.
Hudson-Odoi - relieved not to have given United a penalty, as he had in last season's FA Cup semi-final - looked to respond at the other end but fired wide after linking up with Cesar Azpilicueta.
After a lull in goalmouth action, the wing-back was involved again on 36 minutes, whipping the ball through the United six-yard box but Giroud was unable to connect once more, instead crashing into a post.
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Hudson-Odoi was forced off at half-time with an injury but his replacement Reece James was soon up to speed and saw his shot brilliantly blocked by Luke Shaw on 49 minutes after Ziyech had drawn a sharp stop from De Gea.
United sparked into life around the hour mark, with Greenwood blasting just off target before McTominay drilled a shot at Mendy and Rashford clipped a tamer effort straight at the Chelsea goalkeeper.
For the first time Solskjaer's side were pinning their hosts back and Fred whistled a shot past the post from the edge of the box but Mateo Kovacic kept United 'keeper De Gea alert with a curling effort from range.
In the final moments, James forced Victor Lindelof to clear brilliantly under pressure from sub Timo Werner before N'Golo Kante raced back to prevent McTominay teeing up a team-mate on a rapid counter-attack, and Mendy punched away a Fred shot, with those three pieces of impressive defending confirming a repeat of the 0-0 these sides were involved in earlier this season at Old Trafford.
Should Man Utd have had a first-half penalty for Hudson-Odoi's 'handball'?
Sky Sports' Gary Neville:
"There's no doubt earlier in the season that this would have been a penalty. Hudson-Odoi's panic is the fact that his arm shouldn't be there. I think it is a penalty."
Sky Sports' Roy Keane:
"He does put his hand up towards the ball. There's no getting away from that."
Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink on Sky Sports:
"I don't think it is a penalty. But Hudson is a lucky boy. His hand is an unnatural position."
Sky Sports' Graeme Souness:
"I don't think it was. But it's a waste of time asking us because they seem to change the rule every week."
What the managers said...
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel: "It was a high-quality game between two very strong teams. We suffered in some minutes in the first half, because of the quality of McTominay. Overall, it was an even game. We felt very strong second half, good chances, good half-chances, I thought we were closer to win it, but there was a lot of quality on the pitch, anything can happen. I'm satisfied, we defended very high, very encouraged.
"We changed in the second half and defended with two strikers to block them so they cannot come forward with the ball - and we were not good enough attacking the space, they started pressing high so to find the solution was not always easy. We lost confidence with a lot of easy ball losses.
"We're not in that moment where we are clinical enough to win games like this. But with the effort and performance, absolutely no concerns. If we go on like this, we are a difficult team to play against."
Man Utd boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: "100% [we should have had a penalty]. When you look at it on the video, it's taken two points away from us. I can't say [what the referee said to the players] because that's not going to be good for him. It's not right, is it? All these outside influences, even the VAR talk before the game here on Harry. That's cheeky when they put that on the website. That's influencing referees. There's loads of talk about us getting penalties when there is no doubt whatsoever. Today we should have had a penalty.
"Defensively, energy, application, attitude, pressing spot on. With the ball, not good enough. Not enough quality. We didn't create the chances we hoped for. But towards the end, if you score on that breakaway that's the perfect away performance - or if you get that penalty and win 1-0."
- This fixture has finished goalless in both matches in a league campaign for just the second time, the other occasion coming in 1921-22.
- Manchester United are now unbeaten in 20 away league matches (W13 D7), a run that started in this exact fixture last season. It is the joint-fifth-longest run without an away defeat in top-flight history, the only longer runs coming from Arsenal (27 and 23), Liverpool (21) and Nottingham Forest (21).
- Manchester United have failed to score a single goal in their last six league meetings with Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City or Spurs - each of their last four such matches have finished goalless.
- Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has become just the second coach not to concede a single goal in his four home matches in the Premier League after Brendan Rodgers in 2011-12 with Swansea City. Including his final two such matches in charge of PSG, Tuchel has gone six matches without conceding at home in league competition.
- Chelsea have failed to score in their last four league games against Man Utd, attempting a total of 59 shots in these matches - it's the first time they've gone four top-flight league games without scoring against an opponent since 1958-1960 vs Bolton Wanderers.
Manchester United travel to Crystal Palace on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports Premier League from 8pm; kick-off 8.15pm. Chelsea take on Liverpool at Anfield on Thursday, live on Sky Sports Premier League from 8pm; kick-off 8.15pm.