The home side came into the game ahead of Brighton only on goal difference, but soon found themselves with a mountain to climb after conceding two early goals.
© Getty Images
After Kazenga LuaLua had already tested Dean Gerken with a low strike, the winger ran onto Gaetan Bong's chipped pass and finished emphatically past the goalkeeper for his fourth goal of the season in all competitions.
Just two minutes later it was 2-0 when Dale Stephens's free kick from all of 35 yards appeared to fly straight in without getting a touch from anyone in the box to give the Seagulls the perfect start.
Ipswich looked shell-shocked, and the visitors could have had the game virtually done and dusted midway through the first half when Bong's ball found the run of Sam Baldock, but the striker could only prod wide with just Gerken to beat.
The Tractor Boys finally began to feel their way into the game towards the end of the first period, with Freddie Sears first seeing his tame shot saved by David Stockdale before firing wide from the edge of the area.
Brighton were inches from a third shortly after the restart when Stephens drilled a low shot against the post, but Ipswich got themselves back in the match when Sears converted the rebound after Brett Pitman had hit the woodwork.
The visitors looked to restore their two-goal advantage with Tomer Hemed and Berem Kayal missing the target, but substitute David McGoldrick equalised from the penalty spot for the home side after Bruno was adjudged to have pushed Ryan Fraser.
The remarkable game took another twist just minutes later, however, when Hemed beat Gerken with a glancing header from LuaLua's cross to put the visitors back in front, and though LuaLua and Liam Rosenior were denied by Gerken as Brighton looked to put the game beyond doubt, Hemed's goal was ultimately enough to secure victory.