David McDaid struck five minutes from time to give Derry a draw in the Setanta Cup quarter-final first leg.
Linfield made the better start and they went ahead after 13 minutes when Peter Thomspon diverted a BJ Burns shot into the City net.
Derry improved after break but failed to create openings while Burns saw his cross skim off the crossbar.
City pressed late on and McDaid volleyed in the equaliser from Stephen McLaughlin's headed knock-down.
Linfield showed more urgency in a high tempo opening although Derry were first to threaten when McDaid cut inside before firing over.
Thompson displayed his striker's instinct by netting from close-range and the Irish League champions held a deserved lead at half-time.
The visitors grew in confidence as the game progressed although neither side created an opening in a scrappy start to the second half.
A miscued Burns cross found the Candystripes woodwork after 68 minutes and City keeper Gerard Doherty raced off his line to block a weak shot from Thompson.
McDaid finished a fine move to level, shooting low across keeper Alan Blayney after McLaughlin headed down from a pinpoint Barry Molloy pass.
Derry chased a winner in the dying minutes as the Blues tired, and Blayney tipped over a dipping free-kick from Patrick McEleney.
The sides will meet again in the second leg at the Brandywell on 20 March.