Norwich did what they had to do at Portman Road this afternoon – they didn’t lose.
Jonny Howson’s 41st minute strike briefly looked as if they could go one better and win the opening leg of their thunderous play-off semi-final against their most ancient of rivals.
But once Town substitute Paul Anderson had levelled deep into first-half stoppage time, so the contest followed a predictable course.
It was tight; it was tense. Clear chances were few and far between; as were moments of genuine quality in a scratchy, scrabbly second period.
That said, Canary chief Alex Neil is likely to be the more satisfied of the two managers. His unbeaten away record since arriving at the Carrow Road helm in January had survived his first foray across the border.
Ipswich will have to travel to Carrow Road next Saturday and win away from home. The psychological advantage remains with the Canaries as the teams prepare to recover and regroup over the next seven days.
“It’s all on for next week now,” said Neil afterwards.
“It was unusual in the fact that in the first half we had good chances to score, whereas in the second half we controlled more of the ball, but didn’t really have any cutting edge in the final third,” the City chief told BBC Radio Norfolk.
City did grab a lead only to be undone five minutes later by a regulation punt upfield.
“The disappointing thing from our point of view was that we managed to get that goal which was crucial and then the goal that we conceded was a bit sloppy from our point of view. It was just a punt down the park and we didn’t deal with the first ball properly.”
His decision to push Howson into that more forward role paid dividends.
“I just thought that Jonny’s penetrating runs could be bit of a highlight for us in the game – and it was when he got his goal. It worked up until that point.”
When one long ball undid them. Whether they will come to rue that moment will, of course, depend on how the next 90 minutes of derby football pans out. Most City fans would have taken a 1-1 away at 12.15. However it arrived.
It could have been worse.
The hosts were straight out of the box with Tyrone Mings looping a header into John Ruddy’s arms within the game’s opening 30 seconds.
City had earlier welcomed back Alexander Tettey to the heart of their midfield; his influence in front of that Canary back four would be key in the midst of such a heated contest.
Norwich’s first chance fell to Graham Dorrans in the fourth minute as Cameron Jerome started to drive into the channels – alas the former’s air-kicked volley wasn’t a Bradley Johnson special and Ipswich breathed again.
Next to grab the attention was John Ruddy who was forced into a superb double save to deny first Freddie Sears and then Luke Varney off the rebound as Daryl Murphy lost City skipper Russell Martin and pulled an inviting cross back through the danger zone.
It was, in short, living up to expectations drama-wise; knife-edge football in the cauldron of a local derby.
Tettey curled one narrowly wide as he and Dorrans began to find their feet; Johnson almost converting as the on-loan West Brom man began to show his Premiership class.
Town’s best laid plans were not helped by a serious injury time to winger Varney as he crumpled into a sorry heap on the far side of the pitch; it prompted a four minute stoppage before the game re-started with Anderson on in Varney’s stead. His first touch was to head over when free in the City box.
The Suffolk side were given cause to regret such a miss as Howson side-footed Norwich ahead in the 41st minute. It was Jerome with the big assist; his power and pace was too much for Tommy Smith; the subsequent delivery was tailor-made for a typically cultured Howson finish.
The trick, of course, was to take that lead into the break. Credit to the home side, Town responded immediately and with the City defence rocking grabbed a crucial leveller through sub Anderson.
The jitters extended into the second period as Norwich lost their rhythm and their way.
Johnson saw one deflect wide for their first corner in the 68th minute as Wes Hoolahan replaced Dorrans in City’s search for a bit of composure.
Given what was at stake, it was little surprise to find the nerves taking over as the game ticked down towards a tense conclusion ahead of Round Two next weekend.
Gary Hooper’s late arrival promised a possible final flourish, but with Town digging in around their own box so the game ended all square. For now, there was no clear blue water between the two great rivals.
Norwich, at least, have home advantage to come. And if they can up their game by another 10%, the trip to Wembley remains well within their grasp.