Leicester showed plenty of stomach for the fight on Boxing Day, as a resolute performance from Nigel Pearson’s men yielded a fully merited point at the home of his former club Hull City.
Determined in defence and again creative in attack, the Foxes showed a great deal of spirit following successive defeats against Millwall and Cardiff to end the second-placed Tigers’ four-game winning streak.
And while possibly disappointed not to have taken all three points given the chances they once again fashioned, City will be pleased to have put a festive point on the board while preventing a promotion rival opening up a considerable gap at the top of the table.
After a narrow defeat to the leaders at the weekend, Pearson opted for two changes for the trip to his former club – introducing Matty James, Ben Marshall and the 4-3-3 formation that troubled the Tigers in the reverse fixture in September.
It allowed Frenchman Anthony Knockaert the freedom to pick up more central positions and, once the visitors settled, the little magician’s early involvement was frequent.
Twice Knockaert flashed drives across Eldin Jakupovic’s right-hand post after promising attacks down the right flank, before a well-worked exchange with Paul Konchesky down the left ended with the Gallic playmaker dragging a shot wide from the edge of the box.
Pearson’s men were very much the aggressors at this stage, controlling the game in midfield through the industry of James and the able passing of Danny Drinkwater, allowing Andy King to join lone-striker David Nugent regularly.
As Hull toiled, Leicester sprang into the spaces the Tigers vacated – Drinkwater interchanging twice with Knockaert on a break into home territory, before seeing his effort blocked by the strong hand of Jakupovic on 19 minutes.
As the Swiss ‘keeper awkwardly pawed another fierce drive from Knockaert round the post on 25, a similar pattern to the Cardiff game was beginning to emerge.
And had Hull’s Abdoulaye Faye planted his header from Robert Koren’s corner the right side of the far post four minutes later, the symmetry would have been complete.
That chance for Faye briefly invigorated the hosts. Koren played a slide-rule pass for the lurking Jay Simpson on the half-hour, but the Tigers forward was denied by Ritchie De Laet’s goal-line clearance after being forced wide by Kasper Schmeichel.
The home crowd were lifted and Bruce’s men took it up a notch. Sone Aluko showed terrific feet to escape the attentions of Wes Morgan 25 yards from goal, before stretching Schmeichel with a low drive that the Dane tipped wide superbly.
It was terrific viewing, but neither side could muster an opener before the break, giving both managers a chance to regroup.
A goalmouth scramble broke out in the Leicester box early in the second half as Koren’s corner created problems from the right, but the visitors continued to look assured.
Substitute Liam Moore, introduced to replace the injured De Laet at the break, ventured forward just before the hour-mark and saw a devilish cross from the right sliced just past his own post by the fortunate Faye.
It started to become a game of attrition, as both sides effectively countered the others advances. As the rain began to teem down, it appeared more likely that a mistake, rather than a piece of inspiration, would settle it either way.
If either team looked more likely to find a key to the deadlock, it was Leicester. Knockaert and substitute Martyn Waghorn combined to set up Ben Marshall on 73 minutes, but his low drive was uncomfortably pushed up and over by Jakupovic.
The blue momentum grew, Waghorn whipping a hazardous corner low through the six-yard box that would have been converted by the slightest of touches.
But the hosts remained a menace on the break and when Aluko released Simpson into space 10 minutes from the end, it took another strong hand from Schmeichel to keep out his subsequent shot.
Paul Gallagher’s introduction almost brought immediate dividends for Leicester as the set-piece specialist’s deflected free-kick briefly threatened to wrong-foot Jakupovic.
And when Waghorn escaped into the right side of the box after being found by Marshall, the Swiss ‘keeper was again alert to the danger.
It would have been hard on the visitors had Simpson found the net with a free header from Stephen Quinn’s cross three minutes from time, but Schmeichel’s safe hands preserved the point.
Hull (3-5-2): Jakupovic; Chester, Faye (Proschwitz 84), Hobbs; Elmohamady, Koren, Evans (Cairney 71), Quinn, Brady; Simpson, Aluko (Rosenior 84).
Unused subs: Amos, Mclean, McShane, Olofinjana.
Leicester (4-3-3): Schmeichel; De Laet (Moore 46), Morgan (c), Whitbread, Konchesky; King (Gallagher 82), Drinkwater, James; Knockaert, Nugent (Waghorn 65), Marshall.
Unused subs: Dyer, Logan, Schlupp, Futacs.
Booked: De Laet, Whitbread
Referee: Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire)