Former Panthers captain Danny Meyers struck against his old side with 17 seconds left to salvage a point for his Steelers side in front of a packed house in Nottingham.
League leaders Nottingham went on to take maximum points in a penalty shoot-out to draw first blood in the festive double header between the two sides.
But it could have been much worse for Sheffield, who were 2-0 down at the end of the first period and had managed a meagre four shots on goal.
Panthers came out of the traps the fastest and should have gone ahead within 30 seconds when Steelers keeper John DeCaro had to make several saves in quick succession in a goalmouth scramble.
In a fast and furious start to the game, the home side continued to pile on the pressure.
They were rewarded in the third minute when, with Sheffield captain Jonathan Phillips in the penalty box, David Clarke finally beat DeCaro.
Forced to kill a series of penalties, Steelers struggled to find their rhythm and barely tested Craig Kowalski in the Nottingham net.
In contrast, the league pacesetters were laying siege on DeCaro and doubled their advantage on the power-play on 15 minutes. After patient build-up work, Jordan Fox found Jason Beckett free to fire home.
Steelers finally found another gear and started to put some shots on Kowalski, although their efforts were easily dealt with.
A melee midway through the game saw Steelers’ Steve Goertzen and Panthers’ Guy Lepine take major fighting penalties while Limpright and Kelsey Wilson went to the box for roughing.
The announcer had hardly finished calling the penalties before Steelers finally found the net. Rod Sarich found Jeff Legue in front of net to score.
With both sides pushing forward the keepers had to be on top form to keep their teams in the game. DeCaro made some superb saves while at the other end Kowalski kept his side in front.
With the seconds ticking away Steelers pulled their keeper for the extra attacker and Clarke should have sealed the win for Panthers with an empty-net strike, but he fluffed his shot.
He was punished seconds later when his former captain, Meyers, popped up with 17 seconds left on the clock to send the game into over-time.
With the scores still level, it went down to penalty shots and, after Limpright missed in the third round of shots, Eric Werner struck the winner.