Champions Guangzhou Evergrande failed to turn their superiority into goals as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Jiangsu Suning in the first leg of their Chinese Super League championship playoff on Sunday.
Guangzhou, bidding to win a record ninth Chinese title in 10 seasons, were unable to turn their superiority into goals at Suzhou Olympic Center Stadium over the first 90 minutes of the two-legged clash.
The champions were on top throughout a tense first half, with former Barcelona midfielder Paulinho dominating proceedings for Fabio Cannavaro's team.
The Brazilian twice sent efforts narrowly off target, including an excellent chance in first-half stoppage-time which he pulled across Gu Chao's goal.
China international Wei Shihao also went close for Guangzhou with an early effort across the face of goal and just the wrong side of Gu's left post.
Guangzhou continued to dictate throughout the second half but were unable to make their superiority count and the sides meet again on Thursday with Jiangsu still in contention to claim their first Chinese Super League title.