Harambee Stars held Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia to a barren draw in a Group F match played at Bahir Dar Stadium on Wednesday.
The hosts were desperate for maximum points to put their campaign back on track following the 5-0 mauling suffered away against Ghana. Early exchanges favoured the hosts, who looked determined to impress the fans that turned out in large numbers.
But the first real chance of the game fell to the visitors in the 19th minute. A good move ended with the ball on Michael Olunga's feet, and the striker forced Samon Asefa to a fine save.
Six minutes later, a perfect through ball once again fell to Erick Johanna, who decided to take a one time shot. However, his effort missed the target by inches with the goalkeeper well beaten. A few moments later, Ovella Ochieng's thunderbolt was parried to safety.
Those were worrying signs for the hosts and reaction was needed immediately, and it came in the 28th minute when Shemeles Bekele found his way past the defenders, but his effort was off target.
The first half was characterized with aggressive attacks from both teams, but the end product was missing. The talking points were yellow cards for Philemon Otieno and Gathuoch Panom respectively.
Biniyam Belay gave substitute Erick Ouma, who had come on for the injured Aboud Omar, a torrid time, using his pace well. However, just like the first half, the final ball missed perfection.
In the 66th minute, Kenya's defense was caught napping by Bekele; he did well to get at the end of a perfect ball by Asefa, but was unlucky to hit the outside of the post with Matasi well beaten. Late pressure by the Walya Antelopes paid no dividends as Kenya held on to claim a vital point.
The Sebastien Migne led side is currently top of the Group with four points, one more than the Black Stars of Ghana. Ethiopia are third on the log with no point. Kenya will now need a win in their return match against the same opponent to return to the Afcon finals for the first time since 2004.
Kenya XI: Patrick Matasi, Philemon Otieno, Musa Mohammed, Brain Mandela, Abud Omar, Victor Wanyama, Dennis Odhiambo, Francis Kahata, Eric Johanna, Ovella Ochieng and Michael Olunga.
Ethiopia XI: Samson Asefa, Abdulkrim Mohammed, Aschalew Tamene, Antene Tesfaye, Ahmed Reshid, Shemils Bekele, Gatoch Panom, Mulualem Mesfin, Getane Kebede, Dawa Hetosa and Biniam Belay.