Victory for the Magpies would have seen them rise above Norwich City into 17th position with four games left, but a Vurnon Anita equaliser after Sergio Aguero had opened the scoring saw the two teams share the points on Tyneside.
Fabriccio Coloccini and Daryl Janmaat were among those that remained on the sidelines for the Magpies, while Jonjo Shelvey once again started on the bench, with Cheick Tiote and Jack Colback selected in central midfield.
As for Man City, there was a return at centre-back for skipper Vincent Kompany, who had missed the last six matches with a calf problem. The Belgian was one of three changes for Manuel Pellegrini's side, with Fabian Delph and Fernando also coming into the XI in place of Samir Nasri and Fernandinho.
Injuries to Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy meant that Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov continued in the full-back positions, while David Silva once again missed out, leaving Jesus Navas in a wide position for the visitors.
Despite a fast start from Man City, it was Newcastle that had the first clear chance inside five minutes. It came for Papiss Cisse after Andros Townsend had delivered from the right, but the Senegalese missed the target with a header.
The visitors made the breakthrough in the 14th minute, however, when Aguero headed a Kolarov free kick into the back of the net from close range. It was the Argentine's 100th Premier League goal, but replays showed that the striker was in an offside position when the delivery arrived from the left.
What had been a vibrant and atmospheric St James' Park was silenced by Aguero's controversial opener, while the home side were finding it difficult to play their way through a stern and physical Man City backline.
Kevin De Bruyne sent a rasping strike just wide in the 23rd minute as the visitors threatened a second, but Newcastle should have been level just before the 30-minute mark. Loose play from Kolarov allowed Moussa Sissoko to drive through midfield and into a one-on-one situation with Joe Hart, but the midfielder fired his effort straight at the Englishman.
Newcastle did level the scores in the 31st minute, however, when Anita, who was operating at right-back, cut inside Man City left-back Kolarov before curling a low strike into the bottom corner via the post.
The Magpies continued to make ground in wide positions as the first period approached its conclusion, but the two teams entered the half-time interval on level terms following an open and expansive 45 minutes.
Man City had a strong penalty shout in the 50th minute when Aguero went down inside the box under a challenge from Chancel Mbemba, but the referee was not interested, before De Bruyne had a close-range strike blocked en route to goal.
The visitors had another opportunity in the 54th minute when Navas looked to pick out the bottom corner with a powerful strike from a wide angle, but Karl Darlow was on hand to make a fine save.
Benitez made the first change of the match in the 55th minute, with Aleksandar Mitrovic replacing Cisse in the final third. The Serbian almost made an immediate impact when he rose to meet a Townsend cross at the far post, but excellent defending from Zabaleta saw the ball bounce behind for a corner.
Darlow again produced a smart stop to keep out Aguero just past the hour mark, but Newcastle were also a threat on the counter as they continued to exploit the space in the wide positions.
De Bruyne was next to test the reactions of Darlow in the 73rd minute as Man City committed numbers forward, but the scores were still level entering the final 10 minutes of action at St James' Park.
Wilfried Bony and Kolarov both had half-chances for the under-par visitors late on, before Hart had to be at his best to keep out a close-range strike from Wijnaldum, who evaded Kolarov inside the box. The referee indicated five additional minutes on Tyneside, but neither side could find a winner as the points were shared.
Champions League semi-finalists Man City remain third in the table on 61 points - five points above fifth-placed Manchester United, who now have a game in hand. Newcastle, meanwhile, remain 19th - one point off 18th-placed Sunderland and two behind Norwich in 17th. body check tags ::