For Eastern Conference leader Atlanta (9-3-3, 30 points), a draw at second-place New York City FC maintained a two-point advantage.
Despite not being able to hold a 1-0 score built on the MLS-best 13th goal by Josef Martinez, Atlanta relied on Brad Guzan's franchise-record nine saves to become the first road team to take a point at Yankee Stadium this season.
"I think it was a good point," Atlanta coach Gerardo Martinez said. "I thought it was a great performance by Brad, but we know we still have to keep working to improve on our performance.
"New York was the better team in the second half, up until Josef's goal it was pretty much even, but after that New York became the better team."
The Crew (7-3-6, 27 points) extended their unbeaten streak to nine games with the draw vs. the New York Red Bulls but felt like an opportunity to overtake New York City in the standings was squandered.
Gyasi Zardes scored his 10th goal, second in MLS, in the 26th minute to put Columbus ahead and the Crew dominated the first half with a 15-2 shot advantage with two hitting the posts.
The Red Bulls' high pressure after the break frustrated the Crew and they had no shots on target.
"We let them back into it," Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said. "Give them credit for adjusting at halftime. (They were) coming out very aggressive in the second half. I don't think we matched that intensity in the beginning of the second half.
"I think we realized we had enough opportunities that we should've opened the game up a little more."
Columbus is 4-0-5 in the past nine games but has draws in three straight. A win Wednesday would match Atlanta for points atop the East (New York City is idle), although United has played one fewer match.
It is a rematch of last season's playoff Knockout round when the Crew went to Atlanta and won the penalty kick shootout 3-1 after a scoreless 120 minutes before an MLS playoff record crowd of 67,221.
Crew goalkeeper Zach Steffen was the star that game and likely will start vs. Atlanta, as could midfielder and captain Wil Trapp. Each missed the past two MLS games while playing for the U.S. national team, including a 1-1 draw on Saturday in France.
Atlanta may be missing a big weapon in its attack. Martino said Monday that playmaker Miguel Almiron (six goals, six assists) has a shoulder injury sustained early in the NYCFC game that could prevent him from playing Wednesday.
Kevin Kratz or Brandon Vazquez are possible replacements.