Despite the game’s frantic pace, clear-cut chances were scarce for the majority and it was not until 72 minutes in when the deadlock was broken as Britt Assombalonga turned inside the area to fire home his fifth goal in eight games since arriving from Peterborough.
A driving run from Antonio cut apart the Derby defence to find the 21-year-old lurking with his back to goal. A sharp turn then took the £5million striker from Shotton with ease as he curled into the bottom corner with Lee Grant left rooted to the spot.
But that lead lasted just eight minutes as Shotton scrambled the ball over the line from inside the six-yard box after Richard Keogh’s header had cannoned back off the crossbar and into his path. Leon Best smashed it in for good measure, but replays showed it belonged to the Derby full-back.
Derby ended the game with 10 men as proceedings headed towards eight minutes of stoppage time when Jake Buxton was shown a second yellow card for a clattering challenge on Chris Burke, but a point proved to be a fair reflection.
Forest named an unchanged side from the one that won at Sheffield Wednesday, while Derby brought in Shotton for his Rams league debut and Will Hughes and Simon Dawkins were handed recalls.
Derby midfielder John Eustace was the man first in the book after six minutes for a crude challenge on Forest skipper Chris Cohen, before Burke was penalised for a foul on Hughes just outside the Reds box, with Johnny Russell curling his free-kick wide.
The whole of the City Ground were on their feet after 10 minutes, both home and away fans applauding in unison as they marked the 10th anniversary of the death of Brian Clough, who famously managed both these sides with great success.
The Reds suffered a blow a quarter of an hour in as an emotional Cohen, who has been plagued with injury problems, hobbled off with Robert Tesche coming on for only his second Forest outing.
Another Andy Reid free-kick came to nothing, before Keogh did well to beat Assombalonga in the air as the Forest striker rose to meet Burke’s cross in what had been a hectic opening 25 minutes.
The game settled down as Derby began to gain a foothold in midfield, with Hughes and Craig Bryson harrying and probing before Forest were forced into a second substitution just prior to the break. Reid had been struggling since an accidental coming together with Assombalonga, and he came off to be replaced by Ben Osborn.
That unscheduled move seemed to re-galvanise Forest, who saw Assombalonga head Henri Lansbury’s free-kick over Grant’s bar, while Tesche fizzed a 25-yarder narrowly wide and Lansbury blasted off target as Forest ended the first half in the ascendancy.
Michail Antonio tested the palms of Grant after cutting inside Shotton and letting fly from 20 yards in a second half that was failing to match the intensity of the first 45 minutes, before the incursion of three pitch invaders stoked up the atmosphere amongst the crowd of 30,000.
The delay in proceedings clearly helped Forest and they duly took the lead in the 73rd minute as Antonio set up Assombalonga, who spun on a sixpence and cracked a fierce shot into the bottom corner from 12 yards.
Antonio then headed Jack Hunt’s cross narrowly wide and with the Reds on top, Derby boss Steve McClaren, who had already replaced Russell with Best, sent on Jordan Ibe and Ivan Calero in a bid to get the Rams back on level terms.
Karl Darlow raced off his line to deny Best, but in the 80th minute, the Rams equalised. Keogh headed a Bryson free-kick against the bar and the ball bounced down to Shotton, whose effort looked like it might have crept over the line despite the best efforts of Darlow, before Best made sure.
Three minutes from time, Buxton saw red for bringing down Burke after referee Paul Tierney had already blown for a Forest free-kick.
In the last of eight minutes of added-on time, Tesche had a header saved by Grant as the honours were shared.