The clock ticked on towards five hours without a goal for Manchester United and the mist descended upon Selhurst Park to deliver the graveyard gloom as more points disappeared.
Was this the bitter end of their title challenge? In truth, Manchester City were virtually out of sight anyway but here was another night of frustration for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
After Real Socieded and Chelsea, here against Crystal Palace was United’s third goalless draw in a row, albeit radically different to the featureless contest at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cut a frustrated figure on the Selhurst Park touchline as Manchester United once again dropped points
The disappointing result means United now have a firm battle on their hands just to finish inside the top four this season
Talisman Bruno Fernandes left the pitch full of frustration after failing to provide the spark for his side to win the match
There was no shortage of incident among the swirling mists of south London, with thrills and spills all the way through to the 90th minute when Patrick van Aanholt broke clear and almost won it.
Dean Henderson, making his first Premier League appearance for nearly three months, was alert to the danger, narrowed the angle and denied Van Aanholt.
With it, he denied Palace their first ever league double over Manchester United although Roy Hodgson was pleased to add another point to the survival fund.
Palace went close to stealing victory in the dying moments after Patrick van Aanholt got in behind Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Van Aanholt went for a placed effort but No 2 goalkeeper Dean Henderson spread himself wide and pulled off the save
Earlier in the first half Palace keeper Vicente Guaita showed his own prowess by denying Nemanja Matic with a sublime save
Weather conditions made for a very testing evening, with the mist sweeping down inside the stadium throughout the contest
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Guaita 7; Ward 7, Kouyate 7.5, Cahill 7, Van Aanholt 6.5; Townsend 6.5, McCarthy 6.5 (Riedewald 62, 6), Milivojevic 7, Eze 7; Benteke 6, Ayew 6.
Subs not used: Butland, Dann, Mateta, Schlupp, Wickham, Batshuayi, Kelly, Hannam
Manager: Roy Hodgson 7
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): Henderson 6.5; Wan-Bissaka 7, Bailly 6, Maguire 7, Shaw 6.5; Fred 6, Matic 6.5; Greenwood 6, Fernandes 6, Rashford 6; Cavani 6.
Subs not used: Grant, Lindelof, Diallo, James, Telles, Williams, Tuanzebe, McTominay, Shoretire
Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 6
Ref: Andre Marriner 6
One point was also enough to keep Solskjaer’s team in second place but they trail City by 14 points with only 11 to play, starting with the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
They can point to progress and improvement – 10 points better off than at this stage last season – and their long unbeaten run away from home in the Premier League goes on.
It is now 21 games without defeat on the road but the title challenge has not materialised as it briefly threatened to do and the unbeaten away record will meet Manchester City’s 21 wins.
United are running out of goals. Perhaps they were running out of ideas. Some of their creative forces, so strong early in the season might be running low on power.
Among them Marcus Rashford, who squandered their best chance of the game in the first half at Selhurst Park and Bruno Fernandes who again struggled to find his fluency or make an impact on the game.
Henderson deputised impressively for David de Gea, whose absence was down to personal reasons, according to boss Solskjaer, who was also without Paul Pogba and Antony Martial because of a knock the striker picked up training on Monday.
Edinson Cavani returned from a muscle injury to lead the line but it was Palace, still without the injured Wilf Zaha, who made the more positive start.
Henderson’s goal came under early pressure and his handling was impeccable. The stand-in ‘keeper gathered a teasing free-kick from Andros Townsend and pulled a high corner out of the air.
Christian Benteke skied a volley before Solskjaer’s side responded with a flurry of attacks at a breathless tempo. Vicente Guaita took off to his left to make a fabulous save as a fierce drive by Nemanja Matic clipped James McCarthy and swerved towards the top corner.
From the corner kick, Harry Maguire headed down into a crowd and Cavani stabbed at the bouncing ball with a boot and flicked it over. Then came the Rashford chance: he had time but cut his shot an inch or two wide when he ought to have hit the target from 10 yards.
Wan-Bissaka looked lively on his return to Selhurst Park but could not provide the attacking link-up United badly needed
Eberechi Eze was a constant threat for the home side and constantly found himself fouled by his United opponents
United captain Harry Maguire put in another unconvincing display as the back-line were sloppy in possession once again
As the minutes ticked down both teams looked void of creativity and struggled to break up the monotony of the play
Hodgson’s Palace can be relied upon to defend with spirit and organisation and are always harder to break down when former England centre-half Gary Cahill is at the heart of the back-four.
They scrapped and threw bodies in the line of fire when required to protect their goalkeeper. Cheikhou Kouyate closed down Mason Greenwood on the edge of the penalty area and deflected another effort wide and Joel Ward slid back towards his own goal intercept a fine low cross, delivered by Aaron Wan Bissaka and destined for Cavani.
Palace always offered a threat on the break, especially when able to get the ball wide to Eberechi Eze in space. Eze is a beautiful sight when he runs with the ball, gliding effortlessly past opponents, and he is growing in confidence at this level.
Benteke sprang into another ambitious volley, early in the second half. This time, he went for an acrobatic scissor-kick. His aim was better but the route to goal was blocked by a cluster of defenders.
Mason Greenwood played out the full 90 but struggled against Van Aanholt in the Palace defence
United had flashes of promise during the game but were unable to keep up momentum and break down Palace
Henderson held a crisp strike by Jordan Ayew and Townsend volleyed wide after Luka MIlivojevic crashed a free-kick into a defensive wall.
Solskjaer left it late to make his changes. He threw on Scott McTominay and Dan James, who went close.
Greenwood fizzed another long range effort flashed over but it was Palace who almost snatched the point when Van Aanholt went through on goal.
Henderson was alert to the danger and made the save at his near post. There would be no breakthrough. Goalless, goalless Man United. Again.
They might be tempted to sign up for the same result at City but they need more. They need to find a way to win again.
Scroll down below to re-live all the action with Sportsmail’s Danny Gallagher, live at Selhurst Park.