It was the first meeting between United and Wednesday at Bramall Lane for 2,280 days and there were no goals and not a great deal of quality on show. More perspiration than inspiration.
But the 10-man Owls dug deep to secure a morale-boosting draw and kick off Jos Luhukay's reign in encouraging fashion.
The visitors could have wilted after Glenn Loovens' fourth sending off in his career in England and his second in the space of three months.
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However, Wednesday kept battling and almost snatched maximum points at the death, Simon Moore pulling off a stunning save to tip over Adam Reach's dipping volley. Ross Wallace was also denied by the United shot-stopper.
"It was a hard game for us but I must compliment the team and the fight they showed over 90 minutes," said Luhukay.
"We tried to give a good performance and I think we had good stability in the defence.
"And of course, when you play with 10 men, it is not easy to keep the ball up front.
"But at the end of the game, the United goalkeeper made two fantastic saves.
"The draw gives me hope for the next games that we have. It was a good step."
Luhukay, regarded as a promotion specialist in Germany, having guided Borussia Monchengladbach, Augsburg and Hertha Berlin into the Bundesliga over the last decade, made a bold tactical switch. Wednesdayites up and down the country have been crying out for the team to play 3-5-2 all season.
They finally got their wish against their old foes.
Luhukay said: "I studied our own team and United's team over the last week. When we played with four (at Carlisle), we were very open.
"They didn't defend well with each other and there were too many spaces in the defence."
There was a big roar before the kick-off when the two teams trudged out on to the pitch and Wednesday looked nervy in the early stages. United, looking for a first league double over their rivals since 2006, appeared the slicker team.
Nonetheless, the Owls, missing a host of players through injury and lacking confidence following a dismal run of results, produced a spirited, disciplined showing.
The visitors were well-organised and hard to break down. It begs the question why they have not been able to play in this manner more consistently on the road this season.
Former England captain Rio Ferdinand, sitting in the stands, would have approved of the defending.
The first half was a complete non-event. Clear-cut opportunities were at a premium as both sides cancelled each other out. It was anything but a classic.
Neither goalkeeper was forced into action. When tempers occasionally flared, referee David Coote quickly diffused any flashpoints.
Luhukay said: "We didn't give away a lot of chances in the first half. We were a little bit too fast at losing the ball."
Daniel Pudil, recalled to the starting line-up along with Jordan Rhodes, delivered a man of the match display. He also came agonisingly close to getting on the score-sheet afte the break. His ferocious effort flew agonisingly off target.
United had their moments and it took a spectacular save by Joe Wildsmith to keep out Clayton Donaldson's header. Academy graduate Wildsmith continues to impress in the absence of the injured Keiren Westwood.
It was backs to the wall for Wednesday after Loovens needlessly picked up a second booking after bringing down Donaldson.
He said: "I talked at half-time to Glenn and Frederico [Venancio]. I said they must be carefuly because they had yellow cards and must no go down and slide tackle. You can stay on your feet.
"There was no danger in the corner. I think Glenn knows that and he must not that too many times over the weeks and months."
Committed. Hard-working. Together. The Owls manfully stuck to their task and more than deserved their point.
No wonder their 2,200 plus travelling fans were bouncing in the away end at the final whistle. The blue half of the city have had very little to cheer in a turbulent campaign.
As for United, it is measure of how far they have come under Chris Wilder that they will feel a tad disappointed they didn't make their numerical advantage count in the final quarter of the contest.
The draw, at least temporarily, moves them back into the play-off positions. A second successive promotion tilt still looks well within their compass.
United manager Chris Wilder said: "A draw was a fair result. They [Wednesday] ran around and competed. They gave everything for the football club and were full value for the draw.
"We didn't do enough in the last 20 minutes to show our quality."
This was a solid start for Luhukay, who was only appointed a week ago. Few managers have had a more daunting introduction to English football but Luhukay's depleted team acquitted themselves well to restore some much-needed pride.
Their lack of a cutting edge remains a big concern. It is now four matches without finding the back of the net. Their dry January goes on.
It was, though, a positive step in the right direction.