Tranmere will head into their FA Trophy semi-final second leg at Prenton Park all square after they were held by Macclesfield at Moss Rose.
An early Jeff Hughes penalty gave Rovers the lead but the Silkmen drew level after the break through Ollie Norburn.
The two sides meet again in Birkenhead on Saturday, with the winners of that contest assuring themselves of a trip to Wembley in May.
Micky Mellon made two changes to the side that slipped to defeat at Barrow midweek – bringing in fit again Adam Buxton for Lee Vaughan and club captain Steve Jennings for Adam Mekki, who didn’t even make the substitutes’ bench.
Tranmere made a dream start when Jay Harris was bundled over in the box just two minutes in, with the referee pointing to the spot.
Hughes converted from 12 yards, although Silkmen ‘keeper Scott Flinders got a palm on it but couldn’t stop the ball going in off the post.
The hosts responded when Chris Holroyd surged through the middle and fired a 30-yard effort wide of the goal a few minutes later.
Macclesfield almost drew level in the 12th minute when Steve McNulty smashed a diving header off the underside of his own cross bar, before the ball somewhat fortuitously bounced out on the right side of the goal line for Rovers.
The Silkmen kept up the assault and Buxton had to be at his best to deny Kingsley James at the back post, as he bravely threw his body on the line to concede a corner.
A deep cross from Liam Ridehalgh was superbly met by James Norwood – towering above this marker – but he could only direct his header over the bar.
Town continued to test Tranmere with balls into the box and McNulty had to stretch for another cross that skipped across the goalmouth dangerously.
With Rovers’ midfield carved open, Holroyd found himself in on goal, but as Scott Davies rushed out to narrow the angle, the striker’s shot lacked the necessary purchase and McNulty was able to clear off the line.
Macclesfield were keen to make the contest a physical one, which Rovers were more than up for – Michael Ihiekwe and Steve Jennings both finding their way into the referee’s notebook before halftime.
Just before the break, Ridehalgh tested the palms of Flinders with a stinging 25 yard drive, that the Macclesfield ‘keeper daren’t risk holding.
With the captain risking suspension on a yellow card, Connor Jennings replaced his namesake Steve at half time.
After a slow start to the second period, Mitch Hancox found space and bent a cultured left foot effort just wide of the goal with Davies beaten.
Rovers responded immediately with Connor Jennings whistling a low 25-yard effort the wrong side of the post.
But on 53 minutes Macclesfield drew level. Rovers’ defence failed to deal with a high ball into the box, allowing Hancox to tee up Norburn who drilled the ball home.
Lee Vaughan was then introduced for Tranmere at the expense of the man who had replaced him in the starting XI – Adam Buxton.
A measured through ball from Andy Cook put Norwood in on goal, but his first touch was heavy, allowing Flinders to close down the angle and make a crucial save.
After long eventless spell, Holroyd produced a rocket of a shot from 30 yards that Davies was alert to, but had to gather at the second attempt.
With 20 minutes to play, Andy Mangan entered the fray for Norwood as Rovers looked to utilise his pace on the break.
But with chances at an absolute premium there was little for either side to shout about in the closing stages.
Mellon and his players will be hoping for a bumper crowd at Prenton Park when the two sides lock horns again, with reduced entry and a potential trip to Wembley offering extra incentive to all concerned.
The manager said: “Let’s be honest, if you got offered a toe-to-toe in this tie at Prenton Park to go to Wembley then you would’ve snatched their hands off for that.
“Of course, there’s still work to be done – we know that – but we’re pleased that we’ve taken it back all square. We look forward to getting it on.
“We’ve got a really important game on Tuesday down at Torquay, but certainly I’m satisfied with that today.
“Again it was a strange game officials-wise. I think both teams would say that. But you’ve just got to get on with it.
“I’ll be honest, I can’t kid the Tranmere fans. I didn’t think we were anywhere near what we know we can do but I think the word we would call the performance is professional.
“It’s a two-leg tie. If you’ve not playing as well as you know you can, you’ve just got to be professional and see it through, which we did.”
Macclesfield Town 1 Norburn 53
Tranmere Rovers 1 Hughes 2 (pen)
Half time: 0-1
Star man: Jeff Hughes (Tranmere centre midfield)
Ref rating: P Wright (6/10)
Macclesfield (4-4-2): Flinders, Halls, Fitzpatrick, Byrne, Pilkington (Whitaker 68), Browne, Holroyd, James, Norburn, Hancox (Dudley 84), Summerfield
Subs not used: Ross, McCombe, Thorne
Tranmere (3-5-2): Davies, Sutton, McNulty, Ihiekwe, Buxton (Vaughan 54), S Jennings (C Jennings 46), Harris, Hughes, Ridehalgh, Cook, Norwood (Mangan 70)
Subs not used: Turner, Stockton