City were denied what looked like a certain penalty in injury time as Everton held the Blues to a 0-0 draw at the Etihad.
The Toffees defended in numbers and City just didn’t have the invention or guile to find away a packed and determined defence.
In the second of three meetings this month, the opening exchanges suggested these two teams had already started cancelling each other out in a dull, uneventful opening 15 minutes.
Moments later and Joe Hart, on his 250th Premier League performance for City, stopped a certain Gerard Deulofeu goal with a fine stop.
There were further half-chances at either end as the half continued in what was a fairly open game, but the best effort was Leon Osman’s sumptuous volley from a Romelu Lukaku pass that whistled inches past Hart’s left-hand post just past the half-hour.
An evenly-contested first period ended all-square with the eventual outcome still very much in the balance – but with David Silva on the bench, Pellegrini knew he had a game-changer at his disposal as and when needed.
City started brighter after the break and nearly went ahead on 53 minutes when Kevin De Bruyne’s low cross found Sterling who looked certain to score until a last-ditch Stones block to the sting out of the shot and Howard saved comfortably.
The industrious and impressive Yaya Toure almost found a way through just past the hour as he wriggled free in the box only to be denied by Howard, and then the Toffees keeper instinctively beat out a Sergio Aguero volley a minute later as the visitors held firm.
City continued to press and pin Everton back but a plethora of crosses failed to find a City shirt or eventually rolled harmlessly into Howard’s arms.
Was it going to be ‘one of those nights’? It seemed so.
Silva was finally introduced after 73 minutes to loud applause but with time running out, it was going to take something magical to break the deadlock as the visitors continued to frustrate and defend in numbers
...City 0 Everton 0...
Silva and Aguero combined to fashion a chance but almost collided in the box.
Then, in the last minute of injury time, a huge call by the referee and one TV replays suggest he got wrong.
Sterling skipped past Stones and the Everton defender clearly made contact with the City winger but referee Roger East pointed for a goal-kick rather than awarding a penalty, much to the chagrin of the home supporters.
It turned out to be the last real action of a disappointing night at the Etihad with two vital points dropped in the race for the title after a first goalless home league draw for City since 2010 - you could argue it was bound to happen sooner or later!