This probably warrants a bug report to MySQL, but I want to let other people know about this first. There are situations where MySQL receives incomplete statements from replication relay logs, but does not trigger a replication error. Case in point is exceeding max_allowed_packet.
I recently had a situation where once of my machines was incorrectly configured with a different value for max_allowed_packet. What happened is not what I had expected. Instead of receiving a replication error (which we monitor for using Nagios), the MySQL error log was spewing with messages about exceeding max_allowed_packet. Instead, the only visible problem through our monitoring framework was that replication had fallen behind, and was continuing to fall behind.
Fixing the problem was rather easy: stop the slave, change the max_allowed_packet variable globally in the db server and in the configuration file, and then start the slave.
This is one of those things that falls under the category "MySQL annoyances and one-offs". Shouldn't this really trigger a true replication error, rather than spewage in log files? I will have to reproduce this and then file a bug report to MySQL, but I really shouldn't have to if there was some consistency in error reporting.