Lafferty had Northern Ireland daring to dream of a famous victory on Saturday night, but instead they had to settle for a point in their World Cup qualifier after Mariusz Lewandowski scored an equaliser with 10 minutes remaining.
However South Africa remains a possibility with two games remaining, the next one against Slovakia on Wednesday at Windsor Park.
Northern Ireland made a marvellous start with Lafferty opening the scoring in the 37th minute.
Lafferty limped off in the second half and was replaced by Martin Paterson. The Burnley striker could have put the game out of Poland's reach but squandered a couple of good chances.
Northern Ireland showed tremendous determination in the first half by defending in numbers and looking dangerous on the counter attack.
Poland knew they had to get a victory to keep their hopes alive and looked riddled with self-doubt in the first 45 minutes.
Grant McCann sent in an inswinging free-kick early on from 25 yards three minutes later that went narrowly over Artur Boruc's crossbar.
Then Steven Davis released his Ibrox team-mate Lafferty in the 17th minute. Lafferty showed a good turn of pace and homed in on goal, only to drag his effort narrowly wide.
It was a half chance and Lafferty turned away in frustration after failing to test Boruc.
Poland were struggling to get going but Rafal Murawski made space in the area after 29 minutes, only to find himself crowded out.
A minute later Gareth McAuley again got the better of Brozek, clearing the ball to safety as he prepared to shoot inside the area.
Northern Ireland were growing in confidence, however and Davis delivered a marvellous cross-field ball into the path of David Healy in the 33rd minute.
The Sunderland striker quickly picked out Lafferty but the promising move broke down when he failed to get a decent touch.
Lafferty was not to be denied and made the breakthrough in the 37th minute with his seventh goal for Northern Ireland.
Johnson began the move by finding Healy and he coolly stroked the ball into the path of Lafferty. He showed composure to drill a low shot under Boruc to give the province a start they could only have dreamed about.
However, Jonny Evans had to be alert four minutes later and headed Ludovic Obraniak's effort off the line.
Poland surged forward in the 53rd minute and Brazilian-born midfielder Roger Guerreiro played the ball across the face of the area, only for Aaron Hughes to make the clearance.
A minute later Lafferty came off following a challenge from Dudka and was replaced by Paterson.
Northern Ireland then found themselves on the back foot in the 56th minute but Brozek was wasteful, sending his close-range effort high and wide.
Paterson then found himself clear after a swift counter attack but his effort was easily taken by Boruc with Healy furious at not being set up.
Burnley striker Paterson squandered a glorious chance of extending Northern Ireland's lead in the 65th minute after a superb ball from Davis.
Boruc was beaten but Paterson's shot went the wrong side of the post to Poland's relief.
Poland were beginning to turn the screw with Zewlakow and Guerreiro going close in quick succession.
The home side drew level in the 80th minute when Lewandowski made space in the penalty to clip a shot beyond Taylor.
It was a difficult spell for Northern Ireland but they held out for a point they would have taken before the game.