Billy Davies' side avoided an eighth consecutive away defeat in the Championship but the point leaves them 11 points adrift of second-placed West Brom with five games remaining.
Liam Fontaine's early goal gave the Robins a dream start and raised hopes of their first win against Forest for 36 years, but Guy Moussi's superb long-range strike drew Forest level before half-time.
Striker Stefan Maierhofer played in goal for the last few minutes as City were reduced to 10 man due to a serious injury to Dean Gerken, with caretaker manager Keith Millen having used all three substitutes, but Forest were unable to secure a winner and looked destined for the play-offs.
Millen has now won two and drawn two games of his four-match reign since Gary Johnson's departure, to put himself in the frame to land the job on a permanent basis.
Forest made a wretched start, with the in-form Robins taking the lead after just two minutes.
Defender Fontaine tried his luck from the edge of the penalty area and his strike was deflected into the bottom-right corner of Lee Camp's net.
Forest midfielder George Boyd should have done better with a header from 12 yards out but the Scotland international failed to test City goalkeeper Gerken.
Cole Skuse flashed a shot wide at the other end but Forest were back on level terms after 28 minutes courtesy of a fine strike from Moussi.
The Frenchman was allowed too much time and space and the home side were made to pay when he lashed a venomous right-footed drive into the top-right corner of Gerken's goal.
City showed a positive response to going behind and leading scorer Nicky Maynard drove a shot just wide before Camp made a fine save to tip Fontaine's overhead kick over the crossbar.
Boyd had another chance to open his Forest account but shot straight at Gerken after 64 minutes, and less than a minute later the visitors were fortunate not to be behind for a second time when Danny Haynes' right-footed strike came back off the post.
Forest could have capitalised on that stroke of luck when Nathan Tyson raced clear but the striker was denied by the alert Gerken just a minute after coming on and then Chris Cohen lashed a left-footed shot wide when following up.
Gerken thwarted the visitors once again with 11 minutes remaining when Luke Chambers crossed for Joe Garner and his downward header was palmed away by the City goalkeeper.
The afternoon ended on a sour note for Gerken, who was carried off on a stretcher after suffering an injury, but the 10 men stood firm to secure a point.