Skipper Simon Stead was at his brilliant best but couldn’t stop Ipswich from taking the points from Sheffield at Owlerton.
With their injury problems beginning to ease, the Tigers put in a typically determined effort in search of their third consecutive home win.
But Stead, who notched a stunning 17, didn’t get enough backing against a title chasing Witches side in a lively encounter.
Some sharp starting from the visitors saw them race into an early lead, with a 5-1 in heat four helping them to an eight point advantage after six races.
When Nico Covatti prevailed in a scintillating battle with Gino Manzares to take the chequered flag for the Tigers in heat seven, the tide appeared to be changing.
Taylor Poole and Josh Bates duly hit the front in the very next race and looked set to halve the deficit - yet the hosts saw cruel misfortune cost them dearly as Poole was hit by bike troubles.
Ipswich duly responded by racing to a 5-1 of their own to move 12 clear. That put Sheffield in tactical ride territory, with Stead hunting down Morten Risager in sensational fashion to lead a 7-2
But Sheffield could not make the most of being catapulted back into contention, with the visitors holding their nerve to strike a devastating maximum in heat 12 to all but end the Tigers’ hopes.
Ben Wilson, Nico Covatti, Josh Bates and returning injury victim Leigh Lanham all claimed race wins only to otherwise struggle against an inspired Witches side.
With in-form reserve Taylor Poole experiencing a rare off night, the Tigers were unable to come out on top.
They will travel to Foxhall tomorrow night for the return fixture against the Witches searching for revenge.
SHEFFIELD 42: Simon Stead 17, Taylor Poole 6+1, Nico Covatti 5+1, Leigh Lanham 5, Ben Wilson 5, Josh Bates 4, Andre Compton r/r
IPSWICH 51: Rohan Tungate 10+3, Cameron Heeps 8, Adam Ellis 8, Richie Worrall 7+2, Morten Risager 7+2, Gino Manzares 6+1, Ritchie Hawkins 5+1