Sven Goran Eriksson's side held on for a rare away point to reinforce their push for a European spot despite being under the cosh for long periods at Villa Park. City, without a victory away from home since the opening day of the season, went ahead after 10 minutes through Rolando Bianchi's third goal in three league games.
The goal seemed to spark Villa into life against their bogey side and they dominated after the impressive John Carew had levelled four minutes later but they could not display the killer touch, although Carew hit the post and Gabriel Agbonlahor had an effort cleared off the line.
Villa, who have now not beaten City at home since 2002, have gone four games without a win and collected two points since picking up a maximum nine during a three-game away run.
However, there were enough encouraging signs for them not to be too downcast there was the power of Carew and the pace and trickery of Ashley Young while at the back Martin Laursen dominated in the air.
City were indebted to sterling back-four performances from Micah Richards and Richard Dunne while Gelson Fernandes was the pick of their midfield players but there was little spark up front.
City started brightly and Elano saw his dipping effort turned around the post by Scott Carson. It came as no surprise when Bianchi put City side ahead with his fifth goal of the campaign.
Elano found Martin Petrov in space on the left flank and he had time to steady himself before picking out the run of Bianchi who made no mistake from close range.
Villa quickly retaliated and after 14 minutes Carew used his power and pace to bring them back on level terms with his fourth goal of the season. Wilfred Bouma played the ball into the feet of the Norwegian international who shook off the challenge of Richard Dunne before drilling the ball across Joe Hart into the corner of the net.
A through ball from Reo-Coker almost played in Carew again but this time Richards came across to retrieve the situation for City.
Villa stepped up a gear and an inswinging Gareth Barry free-kick was met by Laursen whose goalbound header was cleared by Michael Ball. The Danish international then had a header deflected just over the bar from close range by Dunne after a Young corner.
Agbonlahor should have given Villa the lead when he found himself unmarked in front of goal after a deep Young corner had evaded everyone but the England Under-21 player failed to make full contact and Elano hooked the ball off the line. Villa protested in vain that the ball had crossed the goal-line before the clearance was completed.
Carew was looking dangerous and he forced Hart to finger-tip a powerful drive on to the far post after being released by Agbonlahor as Villa took control of the game.
City midfielder Dietmar Hamann became the first player to be yellow-carded after 38 minutes for bringing down Agbonlahor in full flight and the visitors were the first to threaten in the second half with Vassell just too high with a far-post header from Petrov's cross.
Villa were soon back on top and Agbonlahor showed good skill to flick the ball over Dunne and would have been disappointed to drag his shot wide.
Villa manager Martin O'Neill was incensed when referee Lee Mason did not award a free-kick after a challenge by Fernandes on Carew and threw his water bottle to the ground after Barry was booked for dissent.
Gelson Fernandes was yellow carded for hauling down Agbonlahor as Villa began to build up the momentum again.
Young was becoming an increasing threat and Ball was booked for bringing him down just outside the City box. Maloney took the resulting free-kick which Hart saved to his right at a comfortable height.
The cautions were coming thick and fast with Vassell picking one up for a foul on Laursen.
Villa looked more likely to take all three points late on and Hart reacted quickly to race out of his area and block Agbonlahor's shot.