The result, coupled with Switzerland’s resounding 4-0 victory over Bulgaria, sent Roberto Mancini’s side to the play-off lottery for the second consecutive World Cup qualifying campaign as the Swiss passed automatically. .
Despite their success at the European Championships this summer, it was Northern Ireland who had the best of the game and might even be disappointed that they did not register what would have been a historic victory.
Elsewhere, Scotland secured the play-off standings by beating Denmark 2-0 at Hampden Park after goals from John Souttar and Che Adams.
In Group I, England’s stunning 10-0 victory in San Marino enabled them to easily reserve their place in Qatar while Poland’s victory over Hungary saw them advance to the play-offs.
The play-offs will take place in March before the tournament starts in mid-November.