Premier League: Norwich City 1 Tottenham 1
Wes Hoolahan had given Norwich a deserved first-half lead, but an improved effort from Spurs after the break salvaged dignity, however, and a stunning individual strike from the Welshman pulled Spurs back onto level terms.
A quiet opening period saw neither side make a distinctive mark on proceedings, with the first notable moment coming in the 20th minute when Grant Holt fired a shot way over the bar.
The home side shaded the opening half-hour and came close on 29 minutes when Hugo Lloris was forced to tip a header wide of the Tottenham goal.
And Norwich were rewarded for their efforts just three minutes later when Hoolahan slotted home his second goal of the season after Anthony Pilkington had received the ball from a Robert Snodgrass cross and squared to the Irishman in the area.
The hosts almost doubled their lead as Sebastien Bassong charged through the middle to latch on to a low cross from Snodgrass, but he was denied by a block from Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
Spurs soon enjoyed their own period of attacking dominance and almost grabbed a quick equaliser as Jermain Defoe robbed Bassong of the ball and advanced on goal, only to have his shot stopped by a terrific save from Mark Bunn.
Norwich held onto their lead until the half-time whistle and began the second half in a similarly positive manner, but Tottenham were looking a much sharper side after the break and Villas-Boas would soon make two changes that would transform the complexion of the game.
First, Bale moved into a central attacking position, while Lewis Holtby was introduced on 70 minutes.
The changes paid off. Just as the visitors looked like they were running out of options, Bale – who scored two in this fixture last season – made a fantastic run into the box and smashed a left-footed shot straight into the top corner with 10 minutes remaining.
Spurs looked the more likely side to snatch a late winner and substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson almost grabbed it with a shot from distance but Bunn produced another fantastic save and the affair finished all square.