The goalscoring prowess of Nicolas Anelka and Craig Bellamy will doubtless be missed in the months ahead but this was a reminder that both clubs can still call upon top-quality forwards. Alan Shearer became the first player to score 250 Premiership goals when he drove powerfully past David James early on while Robbie Fowler's 149th strike in the top flight, courtesy of a second-half penalty, earned his side a point.
A draw was the fairest outcome of a game that promised much yet delivered frustratingly little. "We've got to battle and scrap sometimes to get results," said Kevin Keegan, the City manager. "It was a game when the teams cancelled each other out."
Newcastle have still not won away in the League since November, a sequence that might well have come to an end had they displayed a little more ambition after taking an early lead with their first attack. "We made a great start but didn't go on from there," said Graeme Souness, the Newcastle manager. "They didn't hurt us much in the first half but we made it difficult for ourselves by conceding two minutes after half time."
It was an opening goal that had more statistical significance than beauty. Titus Bramble, in his own half, chipped towards Shearer and Ben Thatcher misjudged the flight, allowing the ball to pass over his head. Shearer advanced into the penalty area and lashed home his landmark goal in much the same way that many of the preceding 249 have been dispatched. "I think he's been the greatest English centre forward you've ever had," Souness said. "He scores the spectacular goals as well as the tap-ins, both with his feet and his head. He's a pleasure to work with because he comes into training every day as though it is his last."
City began the second half strongly and were level within five minutes after Jon Macken's flick allowed Shaun Wright-Phillips behind the Newcastle defence. Bramble tripped the winger to concede an obvious penalty and was fortunate that Andy D'Urso, the referee, decided it was punishment enough. Fowler stepped up to score his seventh of the season.
As City pushed forward with increasing intent, Newcastle introduced the fit-again Nicky Butt midway through the second half to a predictably hostile welcome from the home crowd. But the former Manchester United midfielder's presence did little to stem the tide, even if City only occasionally threatened to turn their territorial advantage into a winning goal.
No one was more frustrated than Fowler. Lurk as he might, no further chances came his way and the former Liverpool forward will have to wait at least until Sunday against Chelsea, to reach a landmark of his own and score a 150th Premiership goal.
Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Mills, Dunne, Distin, Thatcher; S Wright- Phillips, Bosvelt, Barton, Musampa; Macken (B Wright-Phillips, 82), Fowler. Substitutes not used: Weaver (gk), Onuoha, McManaman, Jordan.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Carr, Bramble, O'Brien, Babayaro; Dyer (Butt, 63), Faye, Bowyer, Jenas; Ameobi (Kluivert, 65), Shearer. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk); Hughes, Robert.
Referee: A D'Urso (Essex)