Frustration for City as QPR hold firm
Title-chasing Manchester City, poised to sell striker Mario Balotelli, could not crack resilient Queens Park Rangers and in-form goalkeeper Julio Cesar in a 0-0 draw at the Premier League's basement side on Tuesday.
City closed the gap on leaders Manchester United to four points but a frustrating night for Roberto Mancini's side handed United the chance to increase their advantage to seven when they host Southampton on Wednesday.
United have 56 points from 23 games with City on 52 from 24.
Aston Villa's season continued to lurch from bad to worse after 2-1 defeat against fellow strugglers Newcastle United dropped them into the relegation zone.
Goals from Papiss Cisse and Yohan Cabaye fired Newcastle into a first-half lead with Christian Benteke's penalty soon after the restart not enough to save Villa from a fourth successive home league defeat.
Wigan Athletic moved above Villa and out of the drop zone on goal difference after coming from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Stoke City.
QPR, still five points from safety despite a four-match unbeaten run, have become a well-organised defensive unit under Harry Redknapp as City discovered at Loftus Road.
Mancini, who left Balotelli out of his squad with the Italy striker set to move back home to Serie A, put his faith in his remaining three frontline strikers but Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and substitute Edin Dzeko were thwarted by sturdy defending and irrepresible Brazilian keeper Cesar.
City's Pablo Zabaleta headed against the crossbar in the first half and Cesar made superb saves to deny Gareth Barry and David Silva.
Newcastle relied on their French connection to secure a first away league win of the season, heaping further pressure on Villa manager Paul Lambert who was backed by the club's owner Randy Lerner this week after a miserable run.
Villa have picked up just one league win in their last 10 and last week were knocked out of the Capital One (League) Cup and FA Cup in the space of four days by lower league opponents.
France midfielder Moussa Sissoko had an immediate impact on his debut for Newcastle after joining last week from Toulouse, setting up Papiss Cisse to score after 19 minutes.
Another Frenchman, Yohan Cabaye, doubled the lead with a sizzling half-volley on 31 and, although Villa tore into their opponents after the break, Newcastle survived to move up one place to 15th.
Wigan got a boost in their survival fight thanks to a fine fightback at Stoke, who had led through Ryan Shawcross and Peter Crouch.
James McArthur got Wigan back in the match soon after Crouch's early second-half goal and secured a point with Franco Di Santo's volley just after the hour.
In the night's other match, Sunderland and Swansea City drew 0-0.