Russia thwarted by determined Irish
The Irish, who trail Russia now by two points with two matches remaining, had Aston Villa duo Shay Given and Richard Dunne to thank for keeping their automatic qualifying chances still very much alive.
It was a third successive scoreless draw for Republic of Ireland, who had to remodel their first choice defence radically with John O'Shea was injured and Sean St Ledger suspended. Leeds United's Darren O'Dea and Stephen Kelly stepped in for the rare start.
Given pulled off a stunning save in the eighth minute from Andrei Arshavin's rasping 30 yards shot, turning it around the post for a corner. The Aston Villa goalkeeper, winning his 116th cap and who made his international debut against the Russians, was at it again in the 22nd minute as he dived to his right to turn away a volley from Igor Semshov after Alexsandr Kerzahkov had put in a dangerous cross.
Dunne then produced a remarkable goalline clearance as Given was for once beaten, but the veteran defender managed to block Semshov's shot with his leg as Russia piled the pressure on the Irish goal.
Former Chelsea player Yuri Zhirkov looked a different player to the one rarely given a chance in England and having been the provider for Semshov's goal-bound shot, he nearly turned scorer as tried to curl it in at the near post, only for Given to recover and push it away.
Russia began the second-half in the same determined fashion and Dunne again had to be alert to block Roman Shirokov's shot from inside the penalty area.
Semshov then made an extraordinary misjudgement in the 55th minute, again breaking through the fragile Irish defence, but he chose to pass it into empty space rather than shoot himself with only Given to beat.
Dunne picked up a booking later in the half which has ruled him out of the next qualifier against Andorra.
Dunne produced another breathtaking block, though, and then Given came to the rescue for the Irish as he pulled off an instinctive save with his legs from Konstantin Zyryanov's point blank header with the final whistle approaching.