The "difficult atmosphere" of White Hart Lane was left behind but the scrutiny of Tottenham Hotspur's title ambitions continues for André Villas-Boas. Both Spurs and Everton missed an opportunity to go second in the table, though only the manager who spent more than £110m on new talent in the summer was forced on to the defensive afterwards.

Reservations were not expressed at Goodison Park by Spurs' travelling support, it should be noted, following a hard-fought but often uninspiring goalless draw. They applauded the endeavours of Jan Vertonghen and company, Hugo Lloris's bravery in playing on with a head injury suffered in an accidental collision with Romelu Lukaku and sang Roberto Soldado's name on a trying afternoon for the Spanish striker.

A point against an Everton team who are unbeaten at home in the Premier League in 2013 and have increasing ambition of their own is not a meagre return, but the post-match focus on the lack of a genuine threat from Spurs, a topic that clearly irritated Villas-Boas, was justified.

Spurs dominated the first half but could not capitalise on one of Everton's most disjointed 45-minute displays of the season with one clear goalscoring chance. While Jermain Defoe and Erik Lamela kicked their heels on the bench, it was the Everton manager, Roberto Martínez, who made the positive substitutions that produced a reaction from his team. Only Hull have scored fewer league goals in the top 10 this season than Villas-Boas's men and despite his claims to the contrary, Spurs' lack of incisiveness could prove costly in this most open of title races. They had enough of the play to have prospered at Goodison.

Considering the position at stake for both sides, the initial gulf between the two was surprising. Tottenham controlled proceedings from the opening whistle with Sandro leading authoritatively from midfield and Vertonghen providing constant menace from left-back. Everton offered only resistance and theirprospects of gaining a foothold in the game were not helped by the ease with which Spurs picked possession off their front four.

But for all their dominance, and in the early exchanges it was absolute, the visitors did not provide Soldado with the support or numbers to stretch Tim Howard in the Everton goal. Spurs' superiority yielded only three shots from distance in the first half, with Howard equal to the efforts from Sandro, a Kyle Walker free-kick and a daisy-cutter from Lewis Holtby. Still, it was three more saves than Lloris had to make. Everton did not produce an attack until the 15th minute and Leon Osman's later effort from 25 yards sailed harmlessly over.

Spurs thought they should have had a penalty midway through the first period when Vertonghen broke into the Everton area following a slip by Seamus Coleman. The defender from Donegal recovered to usher Vertonghen away from goal only for a slight nudge to send him sprawling, as an earlier pull from Kevin Mirallas had also done. The over-elaboration arguably counted against the defender as the referee Kevin Friend waved play on and Villas-Boas raged at the fourth official, though he later conceded that the match official had made the correct call.

The possession football that Martínez has introduced so successfully at Everton was nowhere to be seen before the interval but with Lukaku finally starting to hold up play, plus Osman's and Steven Pienaar's touch improving, the second half brought an immediate response. Mirallas was foiled by a superb Vlad Chiriches challenge having been sent clear by Lukaku, and Pienaar had a clear chance to score when free inside the box. He found Michael Dawson's crown jewels instead.

Martínez's substitutions have been hugely productive recently and he made a bold double switch in search of the breakthrough. The Barcelona loanee Gerard Deulofeu replaced the struggling Mirallas and Ross Barkley, dropped to the bench for the first time this season after a few below-par displays, came on for Osman. The pair were immediately involved, Barkley going close from 25 yards and Deulofeu releasing Coleman into the Spurs' area. In a reversal of the first-half controversy Coleman tumbled under a touch from behind by Vertonghen, though he managed to shoot before turning to see Friend dismiss the penalty appeals once again. Honours and grievances even.

Spurs's response was strangely passive until the nine minutes of time added-on for Lloris's injury. Soldado was isolated until the introduction of Gylfi Sigurdsson injected some much-needed urgency into the Tottenham performance, although the game remained concentrated at the Gwladys Street end.

Lukaku flicked a James McCarthy cross wide of the far post and then caught the Spurs keeper as he pursued a ball over the top. Lloris was knocked cold by an accidental collision with Lukaku's knee as he gathered the ball. The Everton striker was booked as the goalkeeper received lengthy treatment but refused to leave the field, despite the appeals of his team-mates.

In the 89th minute he vindicated the decision with a fine save from Deulofeu. The headache will belong to Villas-Boas unless a greater cutting edge is found soon.

Man of the match Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)