The former, seeking promotion as their opponents fight relegation, were on the back foot for the entirety of the first half but somehow took a lead in at the break, with Marco Russ scoring an unfortunate own goal three minutes before the break.
However, Frankfurt didn't shy away from the task or let their confidence drop after this, starting the second half just as dominant as they had spent the first.
They got their reward too, with Mijat Gacinovic doing well to keep hold of the ball in a crowded box before arrowing it into the bottom corner to equalise.
The hosts tried to push on for a second from here, a second they would have deserved, but they just couldn't find it, with them to head into the second leg in need of victory to ensure a place in the Bundesliga next season.
Luck in; luck out
Despite going into the tie as underdogs on the form sheet, Frankfurt showed why they were the higher ranked tie as they dominated possession from start to finish, with Nürnberg looking to put on that perfect away display by playing on the counter.
For all the ball they saw though, the home side created very little. It wasn't that they spent the majority of their time in their own half, it was just that, once they crossed that fine line between the middle third and the attacking third, the quality was lacking.
Stefan Aigner's early chance was the best they saw for the entire half then, the wideman seeing an effort from the right hand side of the box smartly saved by Raphael Schäfer.
The only opportunity that came anywhere near matching that one for Frankfurt was one that fell to Haris Seferovic right at the end of the first 45, with him firing wide inside the area with a snapshot effort.
However, despite being on the back foot for the entire game, Nürnberg showed why they are at the right end of their standings, with the luck with them and not with their relegation-fighting opponents.
With three minutes of the half remaining, a Sebastian Kerk free-kick was poorly defended by Frankfurt and ricocheted into the back of the net off of Russ, giving the visitors a lead that they'd not exactly earned. However, one couldn't say they didn't really deserve it given how well they were playing at the other end, restricting the home side to very few sights of goal as they went in at the break one up.
Blushes spared with another fortunate goal
Still, the scoreline was harsh on Frankfurt and they needed to come out in the second half and change that, instead of feeling sorry for themselves.
They did exactly this and got the equaliser they were after - with a slice of fortune too, which had gone against them for the first goal.
Timothy Chandler will claim an assist, but it could not have been more inadvertent. The American fired the ball into the mixer and, whether it was a shot or a cross, and it fell to Gacinovic, who somehow kept control of the bobbling ball in the area before producing a clinical finish to level the scores.
Frankfurt pushed on from there, with them desperate to make Nürnberg's away goal less significant by taking a lead into the second leg.
Chandler, having technically created the first, almost scored the second too with a looping header at the back post - intended to simply put the ball across the face of goal - posing problems for Schäfer, who was forced to tip it over the bar at the last second.
Luc Castaignos came off the bench and almost scored a winner in the third and final minute of stoppage time, but he just couldn't bundle the ball in from close range, with the three defenders around him coming out on top as Nürnberg secured a big result in the tie.