The Dragons were well on course for the victory required to close the gap on Republic of Ireland at the top of Group D, only for Aleksandar Mitrovic to pop up late on to cancel out Gareth Bale's first-half opener.
A third stalemate in a row means that Wales are now winless against the Eagles in nine attempts, with this tie leaving them four points off leaders Ireland, who they face next in Dublin four months from now.
The first shot of a tight contest arrived 11 minutes in when Bale, who for so long looked like being the match winner yet again, worked some space 20 yards from goal and sent the ball just over the bar.
Serbia grew more into the game after a conservative start in South Wales, coming close to scoring the key breakthrough goal when Branislav Ivanovic used his strength and height to head the ball towards the line, where Neil Taylor was well positioned on the post to hack it clear.
It was proving to be a first half of limited chances, but that soon changed after a nothing ball down the right flank was not given up on by Hal Robson-Kanu, who harried Matija Nastasic into giving away possession and then picked out Bale on the edge of the area.
The Dragons' star man did not need a second invitation to shoot, firing the ball past Vladimir Stojkovic who was rather rooted to the spot and unable to keep it out.
Bale has now played a part in 15 goals in his last 14 Wales outings, and he almost had another assist to his name just two minutes later when a fine team move ended with Robson-Kanu glancing a header narrowly wide of the target.
The half slowly began to peter out from that point on, though Nemanja Matic did blast a bullet strike down the middle for Wayne Hennessey to keep out on the 45-minute mark to send out a little warning to the hosts.
Wales started the second half brightly, with Bale's free kick from long range dipping into a dangerous zone for Stojkovic to palm away, but it was the Eagles who were seeing more of the ball.
Much like in the opening 45 minutes, the game was largely being played out in midfield as the chances - and shots - at either end were being kept to a bare minimum.
The stop-start nature disrupted the flow of things, with the Dragons - held here by Georgia in their last outing - doing well to restrict their opponents to few touches on the ball in dangerous areas.
It was not enough in the end, though, as a Bale shot which came back off the post allowed Serbia to break up the other end, a cross from the right being glanced in off the far post by Mitrovic to earn his side a point.
That was just Serbia's third attempt on target all evening, yet it proved to be enough to keep the Eagles in second place and better positioned to claim that one automatic qualification spot for Russia 2018.