Burnley missed the chance to close the gap on the play-off places as a first goalless draw since April left Sean Dyche’s men treading water in the scramble to make decisive progress in the top half of the table.
Stretching their winless run to four games saw the Clarets slip to 11th-place, although at least the advantage held by Middlesbrough in sixth spot didn’t extend beyond the seven-point margin they brought with them to Turf Moor.
And judging by the way they played, that would appear to have been Boro’s principle target on a night in which they didn’t pose a goal threat until the closing minutes.
Having lost their last six away games and six of their last seven anywhere in the Championship, the Teessiders' lack of ambition was understandable as they defiantly stopped the rot.
And on a night when the onus was them to force the issue, it was the Clarets who sadly couldn't find the goal and the result that would have rejuvenated their promotion push.
Burnley dominated almost throughout but in reality created no more than a couple of really good opportunities to extend Boro’s losing streak and leaving them looking over their shoulders at claret and blue.
Charlie Austin goes close with an early effort
With injuries depriving Burnley of the creative qualities of Danny Ings and Ross Wallace – along with more long-term absentees Michael Duff and Ben Mee – Dyche was forced to test his squad strength, as well as making an un-enforced change at the back where Kevin Long justified only his second senior start.
And those given their chance did their bit as the Clarets bossed the first half without being able to force the break-through.
Middlesbrough, hit by both injuries and a calamitous run of form, were never likely to be over-ambitious and so inevitably the home side saw plenty of the ball.
But they also never allowed the visitors to settle into any sustained rhythm as Dyche’s men pressed all over the pitch and worked tirelessly to try and forge an opening.
With Boro getting plenty of men behind the ball that was never going to be straight-forward and an early goal would have been priceless as only a flying Jason Steele save denied Charlie Austin on the striker’s first appearance at Turf Moor since the end of December.
Chris McCann fired just over after Stephen McManus had got a toe end on a Dean Marney through-ball which all but had Austin racing clear on goal.
Junior Stanislas tries to force the break-through
And when McManus then tripped McCann from a similar forward run, Kieran Trippier clipped a free-kick onto the roof of the net as Burnley threatened to take complete control.
Trippier was seemingly everywhere as he looked to drive the Clarets forward at every opportunity but with Boro just desperate to stem the flow of goals that had seen them concede 11 times in their last four games, the trickle of chances never became a flood.
And Steele wasn’t tested again until six minutes before the break when he turned a glancing header from Dean Marney around his left-hand post after Junior Stanislas had delivered the latest in a long list of crosses from the Clarets’ productive right flank.
The Clarets continued to probe down that side after the break as the one-way traffic kept flowing towards Middlesbrough’s penalty area.
But still Burnley failed to create a real clear-cut chance and with an hour gone they were almost caught with a classic sucker punch.
Boro had barely been out of their half but when substitute Mustapha Carayol pinched possession and was tripped by Long just outside the penalty area, Grant Leadbitter fizzed a shot just wide with the Teesiders’ first effort of the night.
Kieran Trippier is thwarted by Jason Steele
Lee Grant, on his 100th League start for the Clarets, could almost have taken the evening off but the frustration was starting to build and with 20 minutes to go Dyche made a double change to try and force a winner.
With Sam Vokes and Keith Treacy on, Burnley switched to a 4-4-2 and almost immediately Vokes was making his aerial presence felt, heading a Marney cross wide at the near post as the Clarets began to pepper the visitors’ goalmouth.
Treacy’s delivery from the left made a difference and after a let-off at the other end when referee Keith Wright failed to allow Boro an advantage which would have given George Friend a run on goal, Austin shot over on the turn from an excellent cross from the substitute.
Having survived that and seemingly soaked up everything Burnley could offer, Boro sensed they might even nick a late winner themselves.
Lee Grant guarantees a point with a late save
But a swing and miss from Ishmael Miller and spectacular effort from fellow substitute Curtis Main which landed on the roof of the net spared Burnley that cruel blow.
And when Grant touched an injury-time effort from Carayol over the top it confirmed that both sides could probably have played long into the night without finding a goal.
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Lafferty, Shackell, Long, Stock (Vokes 70), Marney, McCann, Austin, Paterson (Treacy 70), Stanislas. Subs: Mills, Edgar, Bartley, Richards, Jensen.
Booked: Long 60, Marney 76
Middlesbrough: Steele, Friend, Bikey, McManus, Halliday (Miller 73), R Williams, Bailey, Leadbitter, McEachran, Emnes (Main 68), Smallwood (Carayol 53).
Subs: L Williams, Ledesma, Haroun, Leutwiler.
Booked: McEachran 90
Referee: Kevin Wright
Attendance: 12,394 (678 Boro)