But having put all that work in, the Millers were not prepared to accept their fate, and Christ Tiehi redeemed them by calmly steering an equaliser into the net two minutes into stoppage time.
Rotherham might be in the Championship relegation zone and Ipswich the automatic promotion places but no visiting team can take points for granted at the New York Stadium. A 2-2 draw was a fair reward for a Millers performance which mixed defensive discipline and dogged determination with a couple of moments of quality up front.
The hosts had a makeshift centre-back in Hakeem Odoffin and a rusty debutant making his first Championship start of the season in Daniel Ayala, yet you would never have guessed it with the way they kept the Tractor Boys under wraps.
So it was a real blow when the ball ping-ponging around their penalty area went in of a combination of Jack Taylor and Viktor Johansson. It would have beaten lesser teams but Rotherham kept their faith and they had Christ on their side.
Manager Matt Taylor told television before the game that pressing would be important for his team and they took less than five minutes to prove his point.
Leif Davis chested the ball down perhaps not realising that is not a luxury often afforded to left-backs at the New York Stadium and Fred Onyedinma was on him, nicking the ball away, dribbling it into the Ipswich penalty area and pulling it across for Nombe.
Preferred to Jordan Hugill in the starting line-up, it was a pretty straight-forward finish but a hugely important one, his first since becoming Rotherham's record signing in August.
The goal gave the Millers confidence, and Cameron Burgess needed his wits about him to cut a cross bound for Onyedinma. The corner found its way to Tiehi, lurking outside the area, to shoot over. Little did we know, he was just getting his eye in.
At the other end, Odoffin threw himself in the way of a Conor Chaplin shot.
But when Cohen Bramall gave a cheap free-kick away, Ipswich made him pay, rolling the ball back to one of two players on the edge of a penalty area placked with red shirts. With time to pick his spot, former Middlesbrough Sam Morsy measured his 19th-minute shot perfectly.
Although Ipswich posed little threat for all their possession, former Rotherham loanee George Hirst might have won a penalty, Odoffin's flailing arm knocking him over after catching him in the face. His defending was much better at the end of the first half when he beat the centre-forward to a cross.
But Johansson did a good job of coming for crosses and when Harry Clarke was picked out at a corner his header into the turf was poor.
Shots were at a premium throughout and former Barnsley forward Chaplin saw one blocked by Odoffin, then another go over after some lovely control and a clever one-two with Davis.
As they often do towards the end, Rotherham switched to 3-5-2 and began causing problems in the last 10 minutes.
Dexter Lembikisa shot wide off balance and Vaclav Hladky had to be uick off his line to smother a Georgie Kelly effort.
So it only made it more painful when Rathbone's clearance hit Taylor, then Johansson before just about getting over the line.
Tiehi, though, capped an excellent midfield performance by steering a shot from the edge of the area into the net to secure a valuable point.
Rotherham United: Johansson; Lembikisa, Ayala (Morrison 58), Odoffin, Bramall; Clucas (Revan 63), Tiehi, Rathbone; Onyedinma (Hugill 63), Nombe, Cafu.
Unused substitutes: Eaves, Kelly, Lindsay, Phillips, Appiah.
Ipswich Town: Hladky; Clarke, Tuanzebe, Burgess, Davis; Morsy, Luongo (Taylor 69); Jackson (Hutchinson 69), Chaplin (Scarlett 82), Harness; Hirst (Ladapo 69).
Unused substitutes: Walton, Woolfenden, Ball, Williams, Humphreys.
Referee: G Scott (Oxfordshire).