Middlesbrough 1, Norwich City 1
Norwich City collected a valuable Championship point to move up to second in the table after surviving some narrow scrapes in the second half at the Riverside Stadium.
Skipper Grant Holt gave the Canaries the lead in their first serious attack in the 12th minute when goalkeeper Jason Steele allowed his shot from a tight angle to slip past him, the leading scorer's 12th goal of the season.
Middlesbrough were level after 21 minutes when Leon Barnett inadvertently diverted a pass from Julio Arca past his own 'keeper.
Thereafter Boro' had the better opportunities to take all three points.
Barry Robson had a shot blocked almost on the line before the break, and the home side had a string of near misses in the closing minutes.
Goalkeeper John Ruddy saved superbly from Robson and Boro' defender David Wheater had a goal disallowed before Justin Hoyte and Robson went close in stoppage time.
With Wes Hoolahan ruled out with a groin injury, the Canaries lacked some of their usual sparkle going forward and Holt was withdrawn after 66 minutes.
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There were one or two major surprises in Paul Lambert's starting line-up after the 1-0 home win over leaders Queens Park Rangers on New Year's Day with midfielder Owain Tudur Jones starting a first team match for City for the first time in 14 months.
Tudur Jones' last start had been a Johnstone's Paint Trophy tie at Swindon in November 2009, with his only previous outing this season a brief appearance as substitute in the 2-1.
There were recalls, too, for defender Leon Barnett and midfielder Simon Lappin after suspension.
Defender Zak Whitbread and striker Chris Martin were relegated to the bench, while there was no place for the injured Hoolahan in the 18 names in the teamsheet, though he was understood to have travelled with the squad.
Jens Berthel Askou was the other man left out from Saturday's squad.
Middlesbrough showed two changes to the eleven who started the 1-1 draw at Leeds with Tarmo Kink and Barry Robson replacing Kevin Thomson and Scott McDonald.
Two former Norwich loan players were in the Boro' side – skipper Matthew Bates and striker Leroy Lita.
City had reverted to a 4-4-2 formation with Tudur Jones and Crofts in central midfield, and Korey Smith and Lappin in the wide positions.
It was a very quiet opening but there was a hint of an opening for Boro' in the eighth minute when Emnes tried to play Robson through but his pass was slightly overhit and Ruddy collected easily.
In their first attack of note, City took the lead with Holt scoring his 12th goal of the season.
Russell Martin's cross from the right was flicked on by Wilbraham to Holt and the angle looked too tight for him to hit the target but his shot was helped into the net by goalkeeper Steele.
Tudur Jones got into a shooting position two minutes later but his first attempt was blocked and his second, through a crowd of players, lacked power and Steele was right behind it.
Boro' forced the first corner of the match in the 17th minute but Ruddy was able to palm away Arca's kick.
The home side were level in the 21st minute, however, though there was an element of good fortune about the goal.
Lita found Arca inside the penalty area, but as he attempted to thread the ball through, Barnett, running towards his own goal, inadvertently diverted the pass beyond the stranded Ruddy.
Bennett was off target with a long-range effort as Boro', lifted by the goal, pressed for a second.
City won a free-kick when Korey Smith was tripped by Robson, and Lappin's curling effort from 25 yards was deflected wide for their first corner of the match.
Lappin, just back from suspension, earned the first yellow card of the afternoon after 33 minutes, it appeared, for dissent.
Wheater got his head to the next corner, by Bailey, but Ruddy made an easy catch.
Wilbraham had a shot blocked by Wheater and the new signing caused more problems when he robbed Bennett and his shot from a tight angle was diverted into the side netting.
The home crowd were out of their seats four minutes before the break when a corner was flicked on by Wheater but Robson's goalbound shot was blocked a yard in front of the line by Wilbraham amid a clutch of yellow shirts behind the ball.
In stoppage time, Nelson conceded a free-kick when he cut out a cross with his arm. Bailey's kick found the head of Bates, but as the ball dropped in the six-yard box, no one was able to take advantage.
Wheater headed wide from Robson's cross in the final action of the half.
• HALF-TIME: Middlesbrough 1, Norwich City 1
There was a change for City at the interval with Chris Martin replacing Tudur Jones and taking up a position behind the front two as they reverted to a diamond midfield formation.
Martin was given the chance to make an impression two minutes after the break when Arca gave him the ball but as he advanced towards the penalty area, he appeared to stub his foot and handed possession back to Boro'.
Nelson needed treatment after taking a knock as he conceded a free-kick – and once he was back on his feet he was shown the yellow card.
Bailey's corner provided an opening for Boro' when it was nodded back by Wheater, but Bates headed wide of the target.
A backpass by Lappin almost landed Ruddy in trouble as Lita closed in but the 'keeper got there first and hammered the ball upfield.
Crofts was next to find himself in trouble turning towards his own goal when Arca caught him in possession but the Boro' man tripped him in the process and was shown the yellow card.
There was a double change after 66 minutes when skipper Holt was withdrawn, to be replaced by Jackson, and when Boro' replaced Kink with Franks.
Arca created enough space for a long-range effort after 72 minutes while City failed to close down in midfield, but they were grateful to see his left-foot shot fly wide.
Two minutes later, the home side made another change as Lita, largely ineffective, was replaced by Boyd.
Robson almost gave Boro' the lead in the 76th minute when he found room to let fly right-footed but was denied by a fine save from Ruddy, leaping to his left to turn his shot over the top.
Wilbraham earned a booking when he caught Bailey with a late challenge.
Jackson brought Steele into action with a well-struck half-volley after Wilbraham and Bates tangled for possession, and it was as good an attempt on goal as City had managed in the second half.
With six minutes left, Russell Martin became the fourth City booking for a clear foul on Bennett.
From the resulting free-kick, Boro' thought they had snatched the lead as Wheater volleyed home from Bailey's kick, but the linesman flagged for an infringement, possibly shirt-tugging.
Hoyte struck the outside of the post in stoppage time with a fierce drive, and Robson flashed a left-foot shot just wide.
• RESULT: Middlesbrough 1, Norwich City 1
• Middlesbrough: Steele; Hoyte, Wheater, Bates, Bennett; Kink (Franks, 66), Bailey, Arca, Robson; Lita (Boyd, 74), Emnes. Subs (not used): Coyne, Williams, Hines, McMahon, Smallwood.
• Norwich City: Ruddy; Russell Martin, Nelson, Barnett, Drury; Korey Smith, Crofts, Tudur Jones (Chris Martin, 45), Lappin; Holt (Jackson, 66), Wilbraham. Subs (not used): Rudd, Whitbread, Gill, McNamee, Johnson.
• Referee: G Salisbury (Lancashire)
• Attendance: 16,853
• Goals: Boro: Barnett (og, 21). Norwich: Holt (12)
• Bookings: Boro: Arca (62). Norwich: Lappin (33), Nelson (53), Wilbraham (78), Russell Martin (84)