Two players were sent off in the first half - Kostas Manolas for the hosts and Riccardo Saponara for the visitors - as the Giallorossi dropped points again
Kostas Manolas was deservedly sent off for a foul on Riccardo Saponara in the first half and Massimo Maccarone coolly converted from the spot.
Empoli were then unlucky to receive similar treatment, with Saponara booked twice in the space of four minutes on the brink of half-time - the latter an innocuous-looking shoulder control of the ball - to make it 10 vs 10 in Rome.
Maicon's sweetly-struck equaliser triggered a barrage of Giallorossi attacks, but Empoli held on for a hard-earned point, leaving Roma at risk of falling nine points behind Juventus in the title race should the Scudetto holders win on Sunday.
Roma's lack of key players - such as Gervinho, Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman - was telling in the early stages, where they were restricted to long-distance strikes on goal.
The game simmered in tempo as the first 20 minutes dragged on, with the visitors happy to shut up shop. Alessandro Florenzi was brought on for injured Juan Iturbe with a third of the game almost gone and what followed was Roma's best chance yet.
The attacking substitute had the ball in acres of space at the back post, but he took too long to swap to his stronger foot and his shot was blocked excellently by Daniele Rugani.
The home team's failure to break down Maurizio Sarri's men - and a disorganised back-line - allowed Saponara to break into the box with Yanga-Mbiwa trailing him, and Manolas was careless as he clattered into the back of the opposition player.
The Greek was shown a straight red card for his clumsiness and Maccarone fired his strike from 12 yards into the bottom corner, sending Morgan De Sanctis the wrong way.
Unsurprisingly, Rudi Garcia's side looked a little lost after the shock of going behind and a man down but, on the brink of half-time, they were given a helping hand by the referee as he controversially showed Saponara a second yellow card for an alleged handball, though replays suggest he ball struck his shoulder.
After the break, Maicon threw himself to the ground in Empoli's area, but on this occasion the referee saw through the veteran Brazilian's ruse.
However, the Brazilian made amends in the 57th minute as he curled a wonderful left foot shot in off the post from the corner of the box after a neat pass from Miralem Pjanic.
Roma had the wind in their sails from that point onwards. Substitute Davide Astori hit the crossbar with a header then Mario Rui pulled off a stunning slide tackle in his own area to deny Adem Ljajic what looked set to be a certain goal.
Empoli were the only side in Serie A heading into the clash at the Stadio Olimpico not to have conceded in the final 15 minutes this season, and that statistic was maintained on Saturday as Roma's push for a winner subsided as fatigue seeped in.