Saudi goalkeeper Abdullah did well to keep out substitute Augusto Fernandez and Messi who shares the Argentina record of 12 goals in a year with Gabriel Batistuta.
"We gave a poor performance and kept giving away possession," visiting right back Pablo Zabaleta told Fox Sports.
The Saudis defended in numbers and frequently troubled Argentina with quick breaks.
"The important thing is we didn't lose," said Messi's strike partner Sergio Aguero.
The home team had the ball in the net following a free kick in the 28th minute but were unlucky to see a marginal offside decision go against them.
In a flurry of action midway through the second half both sides cleared chances off the line and late Argentine pressure failed to yield a goal.
Elsewhere, a debut goal from winger Pizzi and another from striker Hugo Almeida were cancelled by two Gabon penalties as Portugal produced a lacklustre performance in a 2-2 friendly draw.
The visitors, without injured Cristiano Ronaldo, struggled under the heat and humidity in Libreville's 'stade de Amitie', lacking pace and concentration during long periods.
Gabon opened the score with a Levy Madinda penalty after four minutes but Deportivo Coruna winger Pizzi levelled for Portugal with another spot kick.
Gabon looked to have gone ahead following a goal-mouth scramble just before halftime but the ball was eventually deemed not to have crossed the line after the referee consulted his assistant.
Striker Almeida came on in the second half to hand Portugal a 2-1 lead before Biyogo Pocko levelled from another penalty.
Romania came from behind to beat Belgium 2-1 at home thanks to a stunning first-half goal by Alexandru Maxim and a second-half penalty by substitute Gabriel Torje.
The visitors made their early dominance pay midway through the first half when Florin Gardos failed to clear a cross from the left wing and Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke made no mistake with a 10-metre shot.
Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez were on the scoresheet for Uruguay in their 3-1 international friendly win over Poland in Gdansk.
Poland had started strongly but came undone when defender Kamil Glik deflected the ball into his own net to give Uruguay the lead in the 21st minute.
It took Uruguay only 13 minutes more to score again - this time through Napoli's Cavani and Liverpool striker Suarez added a third in the 66th shortly after French-born Ludovic Obraniak had pulled one back for Poland.
Didier Drogba scored less than two minutes after coming on as a second-half substitute to help Ivory Coast overpower Austria 3-0 in their friendly.
Didier Ya Konan and Lacina Traore were the other scorers as the Elephants extended their unbeaten run to 22 matches, including the 0-0 draw with Zambia in this year's African Nations Cup final which the Ivorians lost on penalties.
Substitute Collins Mbesuma's goal gave African champions Zambia a 1-0 victory away in South Africa where they will defend their Nations Cup title early next year.
Mbesuma, who plays his club soccer in South Africa, came on in the second half to score with a scorching shot from the edge of the penalty box in the 64th minute.
The United States finished their 2012 campaign by twice fighting back for a 2-2 draw with Russia in Krasnodar.
A brilliant 76th minute strike from Michael Bradley brought the US level after they gave up a ninth minute opener, then an injury time equalizer from Mix Diskerud cancelled out Roman Shirokov's penalty that looked to have given Russia the win.
Xherdan Shaqiri scored in the sixth minute of injury-time to give Switzerland a flattering 2-1 win over hosts Tunisia.
The visitors missed a chance to go ahead when captain Gokhan Inler had a penalty saved by Aymen Mathlouthi in the 18th minute but scored five minutes before half-time when Eren Derdiyok headed in Tranquillo Barnetta's free kick.
Tunisia, warming up for January's African Nations Cup in South Africa and top of their World Cup qualifying group, created more chances and levelled in the 59th minute.
French-based substitute Zouheir Dhaouadi's 25-metre shot hit a bump in the pitch and left Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer stranded.
Defender Olexander Kucher scored his second international goal to earn Ukraine a 1-0 win against Bulgaria in a lacklustre friendly in Sofia.
Chile coach Claudio Borghi was fired minutes after his team were outclassed 3-1 by Serbia in a friendly which saw midfielder Arturo Vidal sent off for the second international in a row.
Serbia were already leading 3-0 with goals by Lazar Markovic, Filip Djordjevic and Filip Djuricic when Vidal lost his head. Angelo Henriquez scored Chile's goal in the 87th minute.
A spectacular 30-yard goal from Nosa Igiebor helped Nigeria to a 3-1 friendly win over Venezuela at Marlins Park baseball stadium in the US.
Nigeria took the lead four minutes after the re-start when Solomon Kwambe broke down the right flank and slipped in a nicely weighted low cross which Brown Ideye converted at the near post.
Then came Igiebor's moment of brilliance as he took a clearance down on his chest and then struck a thundering drive that whistled past Dani Hernandez in the Venezuela goal.
Venezuela finally got some reward for their attacking intent in the 70th minute when Juan Arango won the ball off Godfrey Oboabona and slipped in Frank Feltscher who slotted home confidently.
That prompted plenty of pressure from the South American side but it was Nigeria who ended the game with a third when Newcastle United striker Shola Ameobi, making his full international debut at the age of 31, who created it.
Ameobi, on as a second half sub, worked himself some space inside the area and delivered a perfect pass to Lazio midfielder Ogenyi Onazi who side-footed home to make it 3-1.