Mamelodi Sundowns retained a four-point lead at the top of the South African Premiership on Tuesday after a 0-0 draw with Orlando Pirates in a top-of-the-table clash.
Clearcut chances were rare in a match fought mainly in midfield before a 38,000 crowd and Pirates finished a man short with midfielder Andile Jali red carded a minute from time.
Defending champions Pirates, boosted by a Soweto derby triumph over greatest rivals Kaizer Chiefs last Saturday, should have broken the deadlock 12 minutes into the second half.
Speedy midfielder Tlou Segolela burst through and passed to striker Benni McCarthy, who rounded goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands before cutting the ball back into the path of midfielder Daine Klate.
However, Klate side-footed his shot wide of the far post with the Sundowns defence in a tangle and home supporters breathed a collective sigh of relief at Loftus Versfeld.
Sundowns came closest to scoring six minutes before half-time with former Pirates midfielder Teko Modise floating a free-kick into the area which evaded everyone, including goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs, and bounced over off the bar.
"We wanted the three points and played attacking football but could not score," said Sundowns coach and 1970s Dutch star Johan Neeskens. "There were many good midfielders out there and they cancelled each other (out)."
Pirates' Peruvian coach Augusto Palacios said: "This was a tactical battle fought mainly in midfield. My centre-backs were impressive, never giving our rivals a chance to score."
Caretaker Palacios replaced suspended Brazilian Julio Leal last week and after a 3-0 drubbing from Santos, he has done well to collect four points in four days against fellow title contenders.
Sundowns have 41 points with nine rounds to go, Pirates and Moroka Swallows 37 and SuperSport United and Kaizer Chiefs 33 in the race for $1.3 million - the richest first prize on offer in an African national football league.
David Mathebula scored from a free-kick in each half to earn Swallows a 2-0 away win over bottom-of-the-table Jomo Cosmos at Sinaba Stadium in an eastern Johannesburg township.
Namibian Tangeni Shipahu netted on the stroke of half-time and Ayanda Dlamini eight minutes into stoppage time in Durban as AmaZulu overcame Bidvest Wits 2-0 in a mid-table match.