NORWICH City and Newcastle United both finished with ten men as the spoils were shared at Carrow Road after a 0-0 draw.
Loic Remy and Bradley Johnson were both sent-off ten minutes from time after squaring up following a foul as the match concluded with unsavoury scenes.
Newcastle were the better side, hitting the woodwork twice through Remy, but City could have stolen all three points at the end only for Tim Krul to acrobatically deny Robert Snodgrass.
Gary Hooper had struck the bar earlier in an improved second half from the Canaries, but in the end both teams had to settle for a draw, with the point keeping Norwich in 12th place in the Premier League.
Chris Hughton was forced into one change due to Jonas Gutierrez’ ineligibility against his parent club – thankfully he was able to call on Anthony Pilkington, who made his first start since the reverse fixture at St James’ Park in November.
Newcastle’s preparations for the game were hampered by the proposed sale of their star asset Yohan Cabaye to Paris St Germain. Alan Pardew was forced into three alterations to his team.
Snodgrass’ foul on Newcastle’s leading scorer Remy gifted the visitors a free-kick on the corner of the box on eight minutes, but Davide Santon’s set-piece was blocked by the defensive wall.
The Magpies were having no problems making strides into City’s half early on, and it took until the 17th minute for Hughton’s men to earn their first corner when Leroy Fer’s drive was deflected wide.
Newcastle remained on the offensive, though, and Ruddy had to be sharp to deny Remy’s low shot after Hatem Ben Arfa had picked out Moussa Sissoko with a classy through ball on the right.
City then got lucky – Remy’s cross was smothered by Ruddy, but the ball dropped loose and cannoned off Bradley Johnson and onto the post, with the midfielder grateful for the chance to clear behind.
Struggling to contain United’s pace and fluidity in attack, City were caught on the counter as Remy flicked the outside of the post with a curling effort and Ben Arfa struck a deflected shot from distance that Ruddy had to be quick on his toes to keep out.
The dangerous Remy was felled on 33 minutes following an accidental collision with Ryan Bennett, but after some treatment was able to continue.
With three minutes left of the half, City were left counting their lucky stars again as they allowed Sammy Ameobi too much space down the left to pick out Ben Arfa, but the Frenchman scuffed his effort over.
A rare foray for the Canaries meant they finished the opening on a positive as the tireless Gary Hooper’s shot stung Tim Krul’s gloves moments before the whistle.
HALF-TIME: Norwich City 0-0 Newcastle United
Knowing that they needed to improve as an attacking force, Snodgrass and Ricky van Wolfswinkel had optimistic shots for City in the opening stages of the second half.
Ben Arfa was a constant menace up the other end though, and had appeals for a penalty turned down on 53 minutes – replays showed there was no contact with the extended leg of Bennett.
He won a free-kick on the hour mark, and from it Remy struck the woodwork for the second time in the match, with City this time grateful for the ball rebounding off the crossbar.
The Frenchman then headed straight at Ruddy as Newcastle turned the screw, to which Hughton responded by introducing Johan Elmander and Nathan Redmond to the fray.
Redmond’s square ball created the best chance of the match up to then on 76 minutes, as Hooper met it on the turn, only to see his shot deflected onto the crossbar.
Things then turned ugly with just ten minutes left on the clock – Remy reacted badly to a Johnson tackle, and the former was sent-off straight away for what appeared to be a head-butt.
After some delay, Johnson was also dismissed for his role in the fracas, and Hughton brought on Alex Tettey for Hooper to shore up his midfield.
Newcastle then had Krul – who had otherwise been untested throughout – to thank as he made a miraculous save at the back-post to deny Snodgrass after Redmond’s cross.
FULL-TIME: Norwich City 0-0 Newcastle United
NORWICH CITY: Ruddy; Martin, R Bennett, Bassong (c), Olsson; Snodgrass, Fer, Johnson, Pilkington (Redmond 71); van Wolfswinkel (Elmander 71), Hooper (Tettey 84). Subs not used: Bunn (GK), Whittaker, Garrido, Becchio.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Krul; Debuchy, S Taylor, Williamson, Santon; Tiote (c), Sissoko, Anita; Ben Arfa Shola Ameobi 75), Remy, Sammy Ameobi (Haidara 87). Subs not used: Elliot (GK), Yanga-Mbiwa, Dummett, Gosling, Armstrong.
REFEREE: Chris Foy