Ethiopia's Saladin Said saw his weak penalty saved in the 23rd minute and Sewnet Bishaw's team went a man down just after the half-hour mark when goalkeeper Jemal Tassew charged out of his area and made a high challenge on Chisamba Lungu.
Zambia made their numerical superiority count in first-half injury time through Collins Mbesuma, but Adane Girma equalised on 64 minutes, much to the delight of the thousands of noisy Ethiopia fans inside the ground.
The game got off to a lively start with Zambia defender Stophira Sunzu firing over from long range with just 72 seconds on the clock, but it was Ethiopia who should have taken the lead on 16 minutes. Girma's hopeful long ball was misjudged by defenders Sunzu and Hijani Himoonde and deflected into the path of Saladin, who perfectly lobbed the onrushing goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene only to see the ball take an amazing bounce off the rock-hard pitch and over the bar.
Ethiopia hit hard times
However, Saladin only had himself to blame for not scoring seven minutes later, seeing Mweene dive to his left and comfortably save his weak penalty after he had been brought down by Lungu. Ethiopia were made to pay for that miss on 32 minutes when Chansa's pass set Lungu clear and, after lobbing the ball wide, he was scythed down by Tassew, whose right boot caught Lungu painfully in the midriff.
Tassew stayed down and received lengthy treatment, but the referee decision wasn't swayed and the red card was shown as Tassew was carried off on a stretcher.
Nothing came from the resulting free-kick, but Zambia eventually took the lead in injury time as Isaac Chansa's clever header found Mbesuma in between two defenders and he found the bottom corner from 12 yards.Chansa and several team-mates celebrated with a well-rehearsed routine near the corner flag.
Zambia were unable to find a second goal to kill the game off in the second half and Ethiopia got back on level terms on 64 minutes when Saladin found Girma inside the area and he fired home off the near post.
Five minutes later, Mbesuma was unlucky to be booked for a dive in the area when Aynalem Hailu looked to be pulling his shirt, and despite pushing forward in search of the winner, Zambia were unable to claim all three points.