A makeshift Villarreal side frustrated Espanyol to come away with a point from a disappointing 0-0 draw which the hosts finished with 10 men.
The home side were the dominant force in the first half but were most dangerous from set-pieces as Hector Moreno had a goal disallowed and Ndri Romaric sent a free-kick just wide.
Villarreal's Marco Ruben had the best chance of the match in the second period but could not direct Hernan Perez's pass into an open goal.
Espanyol had Juan Forlin sent off with 15 minutes remaining and the visitors nearly took all three points with the man advantage but Perez and Ruben saw efforts fly just off target.
With a number of key players still missing, Juan Carlos Garrido was forced into another experimental line-up.
Left-back Joan Oriol started on the left-side of midfield and that lack of fluency unsettled the visitors in the opening stages as they failed to get into their normal passing rhythm.
Moreno was rightly adjudged to be just offside as he turned in a free-kick on 12 minutes before the Mexican was denied again by Diego Lopez.
Romaric saw another free-kick whistle just past the post a minute before half-time, but in the second period the home side did not have the same control of the game they had in the first.
Perez in particular was causing them problems with his dribbling skills and the Paraguayan had seemed to have laid the opener on a plate for Ruben on 60 minutes, but the Argentinian could not prod the ball home on the stretch after Perez's pass had left the goal gaping.
Sergio Garcia nearly made Villarreal pay immediately as he latched on to a wonderful through ball by Joan Verdu, but again his effort flew just past the post.
Forlin was then dismissed with a quarter of an hour remaining for a wild lunge on Oriol, which brought a deserved second yellow card, and Villarreal instantly took the initiative.
Perez nearly scored a wonder goal as he drifted past three Espanyol challenges before shooting just off target, before Ruben's effort two minutes later drifted over.
Espanyol's first draw of the season means they stay in seventh on 16 points, whilst Villarreal remain in the bottom half on 11.