Stoke-On-Trent: Stoke came closest to winning a dour 0-0 draw against Aston Villa as Marc Wilson hit the bar in the second half at the Britannia Stadium on Monday.
Tony Pulis's side made most of the few chances on offer in a match distinctly short of festive cheers and it was defender Wilson who almost snatched the points when his header cannoned off the bar and nearly crossed the line before Gabriel Agbonlahor alertly chested the ball to safety.
With Stoke striker Peter Crouch and Villa forward Darren Bent unable to make their returns from illness and injury respectively, both sides lacked attacking quality.
There was more injury woe for Villa as striker Emile Heskey was forced off with a recurrence of his Achilles problem.
Yet defeat would have been harsh on Villa, who belied their recent frailties from set-pieces by defiantly standing up to a Stoke side renowned for their aerial prowess.
Villa remain 12th in the Premier League table, five points behind Stoke in eighth.
Stoke had started brightly and Robert Huth headed over a Matthew Etherington cross in the second minute.
Heskey came close to putting Villa ahead in the 21st minute, his header from Charles N'Zogbia's corner striking Thomas Sorensen's left-hand post.
Villa's Stiliyan Petrov blasted an effort wide following another break sparked by Ciaran Clark.
Stoke responded and Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan was forced to make a vital interception at Kenwyne Jones' feet after the Trinidadian striker had looked to get on the end of his own flick-on.
After Carlos Cuellar had produced an important header at the back post to prevent Jonathan Walters from connecting with Ryan Shotton's cross, the substitute came close to giving Villa the lead in the 53rd minute.
Agbonlahor broke clear down the left before squaring for his strike partner, but Nathan Delfouneso's toe-poked finish was blocked by Sorensen with his legs.
But Stoke were left cursing their luck when Wilson met Etherington's centre with a firm header from 10 yards out, only to be denied by a combination of crossbar and Agbonlahor.