Arsenal’s Premier League title charge was checked as the leader could find no way through third-placed Newcastle United in a disappointing 0-0 draw at The Emirates on Tuesday.
Victory would have given Arsenal a 10-point lead but it had to make do with a point against a rock-solid Newcastle who defended superbly to remain unbeaten since August.
The closest the host came to breaking the deadlock was in the 87th minute when Newcastle keeper Nick Pope made a great save to keep out a low shot by Eddie Nketiah while Arsenal also had a vociferous late penalty claim waved.
It is the first time Arsenal has dropped home points this season while Newcastle have kept 10 clean sheets.
Eddie Howe’s visitors were content to sit deep for most of the evening and wait for chances from counter-attacks although Joelinton wasted a good opportunity before the break.
The draw was a fair result though, leaving Arsenal on 44 points from 17 games, eight ahead of Manchester City which has played a game less and nine in front of Newcastle.
Arsenal flew out of the traps and pinned Newcastle back in the opening exchanges with wide men Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli both looking dangerous.
Martinelli’s cut back from the left caused panic in the visiting defence and the ball eventually fell to captain Martin Odegaard who blazed a shot over.
Saka tested Pope but the keeper who has now kept six successive clean sheets in all competitions was equal to everything Arsenal could conjure in attack.
Joelinton headed Newcastle’s best chance wide in first-half stoppage time and the visitors began the second half on the front foot before retreating into their own half.
Nketiah looked like winning it late on but Pope made a great stop while in stoppage time Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was seething when a penalty was not given for handball after a cross by Granit Xhaka was blocked by Jacob Murphy.
Had it been given it would have been extremely harsh on Newcastle who showed again it can compete with the big boys.