Premier League - Terry has last laugh as Chelsea earn draw
The home side looked like they were going to sweep Terry and his Chelsea team-mates aside in a frantic Premier League contest after Adebayor slipped the ball beyond a sluggish visiting goalkeeper Petr Cech from Gareth Bale's cross on eight minutes.
Chelsea were pinned back but somehow equalised with only their second meaningful attack of the match as Daniel Sturridge popped up unmarked on 23 minutes to net from the outstanding Ashley Cole's cross ball.
The visitors enjoyed the better moments in the second period - the Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas described it as a "moral victory" - but Adebayor could have won it for Tottenham as he bounded onto Bale's pass a second minute into three added on by referee Howard Webb.
He beat Cech with the shot, but Terry - who has been charged for allegedly racially abusing the QPR defender Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match in October - raced back to nudge the ball past a post with the aid of his back to ensure Chelsea left White Hart Lane with a merited point.
City continue to head the standings with 44 points from 17 games with United second on 42. Tottenham have 35 points from 16 games with Chelsea on 33 having played one more game.
Tottenham have the consolation of ending the year in the top three of the league for the first time since 1984, while Terry was left patting his Chelsea shirt before the delighted set of travelling fans at full-time.
Sturridge blew a glorious chance to net three minutes after Adebayor's opening goal when he knocked the ball over the bar after Friedel had failed to hold Juan Mata's effort from outside of the box.
There was a suggestion of handball when the ball hit Cole's hand in the build-up to the equaliser, but it would have been a harsh call with the ball appearing to hit his hand with the defender unaware.
Despite toiling, Chelsea almost snagged the lead on 27 minutes when Didier Drogba thumped a shot against a post with Friedel beaten and Tottenham marking fresh air.
Chelsea looked a whole lot more sprightly in the second period with Friedel racing from his line to save from Ramires on 53 minutes before holding a Terry header.
Friedel then dived low to his left to produce a fine save to deny Sturridge from finding his 10th goal of the season on 72 minutes.
Amid Chelsea's hunger to find a winning goal, Adebayor had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside while Sandro headed wide as the hectic and unpredictable nature of the match continued until the whistle.
Adebayor - booked in the first period for a cynical foul on Raul Meireles - could also count himself fortunate not to pick up a second yellow card for several challenges that may not have gone unpunished on another evening.
Tottenham made a marvellous attempt to win all three points in the final 10 minutes as Bale and William Gallas knocked efforts over the bar when they seemed likelier to score with Sandro seeing a shot clawed over his bar by Cech.
But Chelsea could yet have made off with all three points as Ramires popped up unmarked on the end of a Mata free-kick only to see a header loop wide of the target.