Manchester City failed in their attempt to move level on points with Premier League leaders Manchester United after being held to a goalless draw by West Ham United at Upton Park on Saturday.
But it could have been much worse for Roberto Mancini's side, still the only unbeaten team in English football's top flight this term, after West Ham captain Kevin Nolan's fifth minute effort was incorrectly ruled out for offside.
Chelsea's failure to beat Swansea earlier in the day meant City came into the game knowing a four-goal victory would take them to the top of the table.
There were few signs they were capable of getting anywhere near that target, however, during a first half in which West Ham were the more impressive of the two sides.
Instead, City were forced to grind out a draw that keep them in third place and the match was marked by another display of petulance from Mario Balotelli, clearly aggrieved with Mancini after being substituted in the second half.
Mancini's thoughts will now turn to the midweek Champions League meeting with Ajax when the Premier League champions must win to retain any hope of advancing to the knockout stages of the competition.
To do so they will have to improve considerably, especially up front where, with Sergio Aguero rested in anticipation of the European clash, they lacked bite.
The visitors' cause at Upton Park wasn't helped by the disruption caused by the loss of James Milner to a hamstring injury during the warm up, prompting a late call-up for Gareth Barry.
And with the back-four carrying an unfamiliar look after injuries to Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott -- Kolo Toure was employed as a makeshift right back - it was perhaps unsurprising that Mancini's side appeared disjointed during the early stages.
West Ham were quick to exploit any weakness and they should have been ahead after in the fifth minute when Nolan volleyed home from Mark Noble's free-kick.
The effort was ruled out for offside although replays suggested the decision was harsh on the Hammers skipper.
That was the first of a number of openings created by the home side, with Matt Jarvis and Mohamed Diame causing Toure problems down the City right, particularly in the build up to Diame's rising shot that almost caught out England goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Hart was also called into action to tip away Yossi Benayoun's volley and when Andy Carroll sent a left foot shot inches wide, a home breakthrough appeared imminent.
City, though, improved the longer the first half went on with Carlos Tevez becoming increasingly influential.
The Argentina forward had been given a rousing reception by the home supporters on his return to the club he helped save from relegation in 2007.
But City's best chances fell to Balotelli, who twice failed to convert from good positions and his reaction suggested this was not going to be one of the striker's better days.
City continued where they had left off after the break but they struggled to find a way through the West Ham backline.
Instead it was the Londoners who created the better chances with Nolan again coming close with a header after being set up by Carroll.
Then England forward Carroll produced a spectacular overhead kick that was deflected to safety when the striker looked as though he would register his first goal for the club.