Former Liverpool boss Benitez was treated like a pariah in his first match in charge of the Blues but did manage to mastermind their first clean sheet in 11 matches and deny City top spot in the Barclays Premier League.
Sergio Aguero wasted the best chance of a turgid game in driving rain as the draw moved unbeaten champions City to within a point of new leaders Manchester United, leaving Chelsea fourth.
City almost took the lead inside four minutes when Eden Hazard gave the ball away and Ashley Cole had to get back to prevent Pablo Zabaleta gobbling up David Silva's through pass. As well as recalling Fernando Torres, Benitez's other big selection call was starting both David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic at centre-half.
City continued to enjoy the better of things and Chelsea could have been behind five minutes later when Silva powered a free header over the top from Zabaleta's cross.
Zabaleta fired at Petr Cech's legs after a one-two with Edin Dzeko while Aguero wasted a glorious chance to put City ahead three minutes before half-time when he nodded straight at Cech from six yards.
Chelsea improved after the restart as Ramires let fly from 25 yards but Torres' frustration grew as he wasted another good pass. City's Yaya Toure blew a fine breakaway but Chelsea were on top, with Mata sending in a corner which Luiz flicked over.
A two-on-one opportunity was thwarted when Torres was penalised for handball just before the hour mark but the Spaniard finally had a clean sight of goal when he rifled just over left-footed. Cole then produced a crucial clearance on Dzeko's cross, which was the striker's final contribution before being replaced by Carlos Tevez midway through the half.
Benitez responded by bringing on Victor Moses for Hazard but his only impact was getting Aleksandar Kolarov booked. Luiz saw a header deflected wide and Joe Hart palmed over a powerful Cole shot - although the officials failed to spot the touch.
Aguero departed for Mario Balotelli and Matija Nastasic almost snatched all three points for City with a stoppage-time header from a corner that was straight at Cech. There was still time for Balotelli somehow to be booked for diving after a blatant bodycheck from Luiz.