Robbie Keane kept Republic of Ireland's hopes of automatic World Cup qualification alive with an equalising goal in the dying minutes of their Group Eight match with Italy.
Giampaolo Pazzini was sent off in the opening minutes when he elbowed John O'Shea, opening a cut on the Manchester United defender's face.
The home side scored shortly afterwards, when Fabio Grosso broke into the box and played in Juventus striker Vicenzo Iaquinta, who finished easily.
Ireland, with a one-man advantage, piled on the pressure and captain Robbie Keane eventually equalised in the 87th minute.
The game saw Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni return to face his home nation and former side Italy, now led by Marcello Lippi.
There was controversy almost immediately when Pazzini was sent off, while Ireland were also briefly reduced to 10 men as O'Shea had to leave the pitch to stop the bleeding.
The hosts responded perfectly to going a man down when Iaquinta scored the opening goal less than 10 minutes in.
Midfielder Andrea Pirlo sent a long pass upfield to Grosso and the left-back managed to slide the ball into Iaquinta's feet amid a crowd of defenders.
Iaquinta then tapped-in from close range to score his second goal for the Azzurri.
Attempting to take advantage of Pazzini's expulsion, Trapattoni put on a third striker in the 21st minute, removing midfielder Andy Keogh for Hull forward Caleb Folan.
Keane had the visitors' first decent chance with a long shot that sailed over the crossbar in the 25th minute
Another cross from Grosso almost created another goal but Simone Pepe fired his shot into the side-netting when free at the back post.
Stephen Hunt created Ireland's best chance in the first half with a scorching left-foot shot from outside the area that Gianluigi Buffon did well to turn over.
Ireland began to press after the break, Kevin Doyle's 56th-minute shot on the turn did not trouble Buffon but it ran into the path of Hunt, who got there before the keeper and went to ground under his challenge
However, referee Wolfgang Stark quickly waved away ambitious appeals for a penalty.
Reading striker Doyle was heavily involved once again on the hour when he drilled a cross into the box but Italy skipper Fabio Cannavaro got his foot to it and Buffon was able to mop up.
Trapattoni's side continued to gain momentum but the Italian defence stood firm, with centre-backs Cannavaro and Giorgio Chiellini particularly impressive.
But the Irish were now starting to force the pace as the game headed into its last quarter.
With time running down, Italy became increasingly edgy at the back and Glenn Whelan was unfortunate not to win a free-kick two yards outside the box when he was pole-axed by a wild challenge in the 80th minute.
Italy then broke with pace and Andrea Dossena failed to connect cleanly with Iaquinta's 83rd-minute cross.
Kevin Kilbane saw a well-struck effort deflected over by Buffon at the other end as the Republic made one last push.
They got their reward with only three minutes left when Folan's pursuit of Shay Given's clearance caused problems in the box and the ball broke to Keane, who stabbed it past Buffon to snatch a precious point.
Ireland might even have claimed a famous victory deep into injury-time but Keane sliced a volley over the bar from inside the box.