It was a game of two penalties, as John Obi Mikel missed a spot-kick in the first half, while Kennedy Mweene's brought Zambia back into the game in the second.
Emmanuel Emenike opened the scoring from open play in the 56th minute.
The pitch at Mbombela Stadium was dry and bobbly, which certainly did not help either team's cause.
On 16 minutes Davis Nkausu sent a great cross-field ball through to Isaac Chansa, who was cutting in from the left. The former Orlando Pirates man took a touch and shot from a tight angle, but the ball went wide.
In a great piece of play for Zambia, Rainford Kalaba latched onto a sublime through-ball before smashing a shot towards goal, but could only manage to hit the support structure of the net.
Nigeria were gifted a penalty on 26 minutes, when Nkausu clumsily knocked Ahmed Musa's feet out from under him. Mikel, who has just three international goals in almost 60 games, stepped up to take the spot-kick, and mishit the ball, which pinged off the upright, with Kennedy Mweene looking to have it covered.
Christopher Katongo had a couple of chances next, and almost connected with a free-kick, but was not able to get any power onto his header.
A couple of minutes later the Chipolopolo skipper slammed a low shot towards goal, but scuffed the ground in the process, removing all teeth from the shot.
Musa started the second half with a squandered chance, as he sliced a shot across goal after running through at top speed. Emenike, who was waiting in front of goal, must be as confused as anybody as to whether it was a cross or a shot.
Emenike came close again a few minutes later, bundling his way through three Zambian defenders and turning in the box before popping a shot over the advancing keeper, which looped and looked to be dropping into goal, ending up just wide.
The Super Eagles finally opened the scoring shortly after, with Mikel winning the ball powerfully in the middle of the park, before whizzing a pass through to Emenike, who took two touches before driving a low show into the bottom left corner.
Then, six minutes from time, Zambia were awarded a controversial penalty when Emmanuel Mayuka when down on the edge of the area, after a half-hearted tussle with Ogenyi Onazi. It was not clear how much contact there was, and it was not clear whether both players were in the area, but the referee did not hesitate in awarding the penalty.
Mweene stepped up to take the kick, and calmly scooped the ball into the top right corner with probably the most elegant and proficient penalty you will ever see.
Zambia's tails were up in the last few minutes of the match, but they could not change the scoreline and the two teams will share the points.