Arsenal and Everton were both left frustrated in their battle for a Champions League berth as they played out a goalless draw at the Emirates.
Both sides had opportunities to win the game, but Steven Pienaar and Victor Anichebe were wasteful with them for the visitors, while Olivier Giroud was the central culprit for Arsenal.
Everton had at least matched their opponents for much of the encounter, but it was the home side that were pressing strongly for a winner in the closing stages. Yet, a combination of poor finishing and resolute defending from David Moyes’s side saw the scores finish level.
The result keeps Arsenal in third place in the Premier League, but if Chelsea and Tottenham win their games in hand they will be overtaken by both in the battle for a Champions League spot. It was also a missed opportunity for sixth-placed Everton, who realistically needed the three points to give themselves genuine hope of claiming a treasured top four position.
Despite a terrible record at Arsenal that has seen them win just once in the Premier League era, and that in 1996, it was the visitors that started the brighter.
Steven Pienaar had the match’s first opportunity as he was found running in behind the Arsenal defense from Phil Jagielka’s low through ball, but he side-footed over the bar as Wojciech Szczesny rushed out to challenge.
After an initial positive start the match became scrappy with repeated fouls and poor passing interrupting any attacking momentum. Darron Gibson was lucky to escape a second yellow card for a clear body check on Theo Walcott.
Everton began to drop deeper as did Marouane Fellaini. Defending back on his own byline, the midfielder committed a cardinal sin of putting the ball across his own box and Santi Cazorla intercepted before feeding it to Kieran Gibbs who struck over the bar to the great relief of Fellaini.
It wasn’t until the final minutes of the first half that the encounter really came to life.
Everton boss David Moyes had shown considerable faith in selecting 19-year-old Ross Barkley for such a crucial match and the midfielder began to repay that confidence after a poor start. First Barkley fired what was the first effort on target of the night with an ambitious curling effort that produced a comfortable save from Szczesny.
With five minutes left of the half, Barkley produced a piece of sublime skill to get away from Arteta before feeding in Victor Anichebe but a fine recovery from Kieran Gibbs and a block from Per Mertesacker snuffed out the danger.
Arsenal also began to create late on in the half. They should have gone ahead too as Aaron Ramsey delivered an inviting first-time cross from the right for Olivier Giroud, but the France striker couldn’t find the net as his effort flew wide with Tim Howard helpless.
Santi Cazorla also threatened as a sumptuous touch took the ball through the legs of Gibson to earn space in the box for a shot, but Jagielka flew in with a superb block ahead of Howard.
The second half picked up where the first left off, with both sides playing positively and creating openings.
The first of the period fell Arsenal’s way. After Everton missed several chances to clear the danger, Gibbs knocked the ball down to Cazorla on the edge of the box, who hit a rasping drive that Howard parried wide at his near post.
At the other end Baines produced his trademark fine delivery from a free-kick and Anichebe should have been finding the net from six yards out, but failed to make clean contact with the ball.
Barkley almost stole the headlines as he superbly created space for himself on the edge of the box and came agonizingly close to giving Everton the lead and getting his first goal for the club but his curling effort just missed the angle of post and bar.
With just over 20 minutes remaining Arsene Wenger sent for fresh legs in the form of Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Arsenal started to take control with Everton again dropping off their opponents.
Oxlade-Chamberlain almost made a decisive impact when he slid the ball across the six-yard box for Giroud, who looked poised to score, but Seamus Coleman got a foot in just in time to deny the Arsenal front man.
While that was a fine piece of defending, Giroud could have no excuses with an opportunity that went begging with just over 10 minutes remaining. The former Montpellier man did well to create space for a shot but from six yards out he blazed wastefuly over the bar.
With so much on the line, it was a tense and engaging finale as both teams went in search of a goal. Mirallas failed to make the most of a brief opening for Everton while Coleman got in another crucial challenge to prevent Arteta scoring against his former club and ensure that the match ended with neither side having particular reason to cheer.