Much of the pre-match hype had surrounded the return of former Gunners striker Emmanuel Adebayor, but he was left on the bench by City boss Roberto Mancini - before being introduced to resounding jeers early in the second half.
Arsenal had the better of possession, yet they only tested Shay Given a couple of times before the City keeper went off with a suspected broken shoulder.
There were a few expected boos as Adebayor made his way to the visitors' dugout before kick-off, while by contrast his fellow former Gunners Kolo Toure and Patrick Vieira were both well received by the home supporters.
Arsenal threw away any hopes of getting back into the title race last weekend when they blew a 2-0 lead in the last 10 minutes to lose at Wigan, while big-spending City were looking to overtake Tottenham - who earlier lost at Manchester United - in the chase for that coveted final Champions League qualifying slot.
Robin van Persie has been sorely missed by the Gunners, and he captained the side on his home return following five months out with a knee injury.
The Dutchman almost made an instant impact when he burst into the City box before Toure came across to make a blocking tackle.
There was a brief stoppage when City defender Wayne Bridge - who made himself unavailable to watching England manager Fabio Capello for the World Cup in the wake of the John Terry saga - needed treatment for a thigh problem.
The full-back was, though, soon in the action again, sprinting down the left wing, only to be beaten to the ball by Theo Walcott - who will be doing his best to get on the plane to South Africa.
City were, however, forced into a change on 27 minutes, when Bridge was replaced by Micah Richards - himself just fit again following a four-match absence with a knee injury.
Samir Nasri was then flagged somewhat dubiously offside after latching onto van Persie's through-ball.
Arsenal continued to press, and Walcott skewed his first-time effort as the ball dropped at the edge of the City area.
Nasri's angled shot following a wonderful take down by van Persie brought the first meaningful save from Given.
At the other end, a crunching tackle from veteran Sol Campbell blocked Vieira as the former Gunners captain burst into the penalty area.
After a low-key opening to the second half, the introduction of Adebayor on 52 minutes was greeted by a cacophony of boos - despite manager Arsene Wenger having called for the former Togo striker to be shown the same respect as all old players. Vieira was clapped off, the home fans delivering a clear message to their one-time star man Adebayor, who left for City in a £25million summer move.
With the temperature raised, there was a flashpoint when Craig Bellamy and Song squared up, with referee Mike Dean calling the respective captains together in an attempt to restore calm to what had been a well-contested but not overly physical game.
Rosicky drilled a low shot from 18 yards straight at Given after a neat one-two with Nasri as Arsenal upped the pace again.
Adebayor capitalised on a slip from Silvestre to dart off down the left, but ran the ball out - much to the delight of the home fans.
City were having a much better spell, and continued to press Arsenal back.
Substitute Nicklas Bendtner flashed a low cross through the six-yard box, before Diaby created space to shoot from 25 yards.
Given tipped wide at full stretch but appeared to have damaged his shoulder and, after several minutes of treatment, was carried off on a stretcher taking in oxygen. Faroe Islands goalkeeper Gunnar Nielsen replaced him for an unexpected debut.
Bellamy was booked for tripping Bendtner and Van Persie followed after a late sliding challenge on Adebayor as City broke quickly.
It was becoming a busy afternoon for Mr Dean, as Pablo Zabaleta was also shown a yellow card for stepping across Eboue and conceding a free-kick some 25 yards out. Van Persie chipped his effort over the wall, but just inches wide of the top right corner.
There were some eight minutes of stoppage time, during which neither side were able to find a winner.