Manchester City 0 West Bromwich Albion 0
Kirkland, on a season-long loan at The Hawthorns from Liverpool, underlined why he could, injury permitting, still force his way into the England team.
The former Coventry keeper pulled off a memorable string of saves to help the Baggies pick up a valuable away point at Eastlands.
James, back as England number one in the injury enforced absence of Paul Robinson, was also not to be outdone, making a couple of super stops to ensure his side kept a clean sheet.
It was a point which on reflection was a fair result as both sides had chances to emerge victorious.
As the away manager, Bryan Robson will no doubt be the more satisfied.
Robson kept faith with essentially the same side which preserved their Premiership status in May, with Kirkland the only one of his five summer signings to make the starting line-up.
City's Stuart Pearce was forced to field a makeshift backline in the absence of Richard Dunne and Sylbain Distin, with David Sommeil and left-back Stephen Jordan playing as stand-in central defenders.
Despite their makeshift back four, Pearce will be delighted with the way in which his side defended as they restricted the visitors to only a handful of chances.
Had it not been for Kirland's heroics, City would have finished the opening period with a comfortable lead.
Three times in the first 45 minutes Kirkland pulled off super saves to deny Andy Cole, Joey Barton and Claudio Reyna.
Reyna's effort, late in the half, was the best as he flung himself full length low to his left to divert the American's drive around the post with his fingertips.
Yet the Baggies might have stolen ahead after Jonathan Greening's centre from the left, but Zoltan Gera headed wide from eight yards with the goal at his mercy.
City might have fallen behind early in the second half when Kevin Campbell beat the City offside trap and raced through on goal, only for James to block bravely when the striker looked certain to score.
Neil Clement then had the audacity to try and catch James unaware with a free-kick from inside his own half and watched as his effort dipped narrowly over the crossbar.
Kirkland was at his best once again midway through the second half, denying Cole for a second time as the former Manchester United striker seized on a wayward header from Thomas Gaardsoe back to the keeper.
James needed all his 6ft 5in frame to claw out a cross from Hungary international Gera as it looked destined to dip into the top corner of the net.
City threw on substitute striker Bradley Wright-Phillips for Darius Vassell for the last 20 minutes to try and inject new life into their attack.
But despite a spirited finish City were unable to conjure a matchwinning goal.
Kiki Musampa came within a whisker of finding the net when his close-range header flashed narrowly wide.
Barton was then foiled by Kirkland for a second time as the Baggies keeper spread himself superbly to block a goalbound drive with his legs.
Man of the Match: Chris Kirkland - The on-loan Liverpool keeper was the Baggies hero as the visitors gained a hard-earned point.