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, which the visitors had the better of in the first half but the home side the second.
The draw moved unbeaten champions City to within a point of new leaders Manchester United, leaving Chelsea fourth.
Benitez has shored up the Blues' defence during his four days in charge but he has his work cut out to get them playing the scintillating football demanded by the watching Roman Abramovich - and to get Fernando Torres scoring.
But that is nothing compared to winning over the fans on Sunday's evidence.
Chelsea's stadium announcer was drowned out by jeers as he appealed for calm in order to pay tribute to former Chelsea boss Dave Sexton, whose death was confirmed on Sunday.
There were also expletive-laden chants of "you're not wanted here", and signs reading 'Benitez out' - coupled with songs and banners hailing the sacked Roberto Di Matteo.
City's fans also showed no mercy and their players almost did the same 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.
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As well as recalling Torres, Benitez's other big selection call was starting both David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic at centre-half - something his predecessor never did.
There was a worrying mix-up when Luiz's clearance careered behind off Ivanovic as City continued to enjoy the better of things.
Even more songs and applause for Di Matteo in the 16th minute - in recognition of his shirt number while a player at Chelsea - failed to inspire the home side.
They could have been behind five minutes later when Silva powered a free header over the top from Zabaleta's cross.
Chelsea's defensive jitters continued, with Cesar Azpilicueta's desperate block denying Aguero, although Ivanovic wreaked havoc from a corner at the other end.
Zabaleta repeatedly exposed Chelsea's weakness down the left and he fired at Petr Cech's legs after a one-two with Edin Dzeko.
And, following a sudden dowpour, Aguero wasted a glorious chance to put City ahead three minutes before half-time when he nodded straight at Cech from six yards with no-one else near him.
Chelsea finally put together a flowing move and Ramires also let fly from 25 yards as they improved after the restart - but Torres' frustration grew as he wasted another good pass before kicking the ball away.
City's Yaya Toure blew a fine breakaway but Chelsea were on top, with Mata seeing more and more of the ball, as well as 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, after Cech spilt a skidding effort from Toure, the Spaniard finally had a clean sight of goal when he rifled just over left-footed after good work from Mata and Hazard.
Zabaleta was booked for halting a barnstorming run from Ivanovic, while Cole produced a crucial clearance on Dzeko's cross, 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 as rain began to teem down once more.
Oriol Romeu replaced John Obi Mikel as Benitez tried again, although James Milner might have done better with a low cross.
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.