OXFORD United inched closer to safety with a tense goalless draw at home to Oldham Athletic.

While it was a missed opportunity to make a decisive break clear of the bottom four in Sky Bet League One, the result kept Oldham at arm’s length on an afternoon where only one side below them in the table won.

It meant the draw increased the U’s cushion over the relegation zone to five points and the home side’s effort on show earned them a standing ovation as they came off the pitch.

A stalemate was arguably the right result after a game where clear chances were at a premium.

After an early opening for James Henry, United’s closest attempt came just after the hour mark when Rob Dickie had an effort blocked on the line.

Henry escaped two strong Oldham claims for penalties, while the officials also came under fire from United, who felt Latics full back Wilfired Moimbe should have been sent off.

But in the end neither side had enough quality to take all three points.

The teamsheet showed one change to the United side which started Monday’s 3-2 defeat at Shrewsbury Town.

Ricardinho replaced Agon Mehmeti and played in an attacking role on the left flank, as Jon Obika led the line.

The stakes were high, but United forced a glorious chance in only the fourth minute.

Henry robbed last man Kean Bryan, but his touch took him slightly wide on to his left foot and the midfielder opted to cross for Obika, whose protests for a penalty after going to ground were dismissed by referee Eddie Ilderton.

In the context of what followed, it was a massive opportunity.

United were looking to take on boss Karl Robinson’s demand of getting the ball into the box where possible, but Oldham stood up to the crosses.

The visitors lost Bryan to a hamstring injury, but before the half-hour mark Josh Ruffels appeared to suffer a similar issue and had to be withdrawn.

It saw Ricardinho drop to left back, with Isaac Buckley-Ricketts coming on.

On the pitch there was plenty of effort, but not much quality as both sides saw moves break down prematurely.

While Obika was often isolated, the lone striker could not reliably hold on to the ball when it reached him.

Oldham took 37 minutes to muster an effort of any kind. It was not worth the wait, as Jack Byrne’s 25-yard effort sliced harmlessly into the East Stand.

Visiting left back Moimbe was needed to make an excellent header underneath his crossbar to prevent Dickie from heading in Ricardinho’s wicked corner.

But the hosts were happier to hear the half-time whistle, as the Latics got on top in the four minutes of stoppage-time.

Todd Kane was in the right place at the right time to clear Byrne’s shot off the line, while the dangerous Eoin Doyle saw a shot blocked by Dickie.

The latter chance came after Buckley-Ricketts had been pushed off the ball far too easily.

It was the Manchester City loanee’s final act, with the ineffective substitute being hauled off at the break.

Wes Thomas replaced Buckley-Ricketts to give United two men up front and the hosts immediately went more direct.

But the game became increasingly scrappy as the tension rose.

There was drama on the hour, when Kane was taken out by a high tackle from Moimbe.

United appealed for a red card, but the referee opted for just a yellow – possibly feeling the full back only had eyes for the ball.

A stretcher was brought out for Kane, before being sent back as the full back groggily got to his feet.

From the free-kick United came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock, but Dickie’s header from Henry’s free-kick was blocked on the line.

While there were still 30 nerve-shredding minutes remaining, the game remained stubbornly tight.

Substitute Duckens Nazon had a shot deflected over, while Henry - who had escaped punishment for a push in the box in the first half - got away with an even clearer foul in the latter stages on Rob Hunt.

United were unhappy Moimbe's shirt pull on Obika, which would have earned a second yellow card, went unnoticed.

They finished with only nine men upright, as Henry and Thomas went down in the final seconds, the latter having been flattened by goalkeeper Johny Placide without reward.

It summed up a performance where bodies were put on the line for the cause, but it was only worth a point.

Oxford Utd (4-2-3-1): Eastwood, Kane, Dickie, Mousinho, Ruffels (Buckley-Ricketts 29, Thomas HT), Brannagan, Ledson, Henry, Rothwell, Ricardinho, Obika.

Unused subs: Shearer, Martin, Smith-Brown, Napa, Mehmeti.

Booked: Thomas.

Oldham Ath (4-2-3-1): Placide, Hunt, Edmundson, Bryan (Hamer 18), Moimbe, Fane, Gardner, Obadeyi (Nazon 68), Byrne, McEleney, Doyle (Holloway 88).

Unused subs: De La Paz, Nepomuceno, Pringle, Benteke.

Booked: Fane, Moimbe.

Referee: Eddie Ilderton (Tyne & Wear).

Attendance: 7,092 (492 visitors).