Haiti's players, who gave Spain a few frights before losing 2-1 to the world champions at the weekend, celebrated deliriously on the pitch at Vasco da Gama's Sao Januario stadium after shocking their illustrious opponents who slunk quietly away.
Italy, playing only 36 hours after arriving in Brazil for the Confederations Cup, went ahead through Emanuele Giaccherini before Haiti had even touched the ball and, after their opponents had wasted several chances to equalise, added a second through Claudio Marchisio in the 72nd minute.
They seemed to have survived everything Haiti could throw at them until Davide Astori fouled Jean-Eudes Maurice in the penalty area and Olrish Saurel converted the penalty with five minutes to go.
Italy looked dazed and weary when a long ball forward found Jean Philippe Peguero and he poked it past goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigiu to the joy of the neutrals in the crowd.
"We know that 2-2 is a really bad result," a sheepish Italy coach Cesare Prandelli told RAI television. "We agreed to play this match, we arrived yesterday, we made a lot of changes but we needed to show a different spirit."
"You could see today we lost every single sprint, so we hope in five days the team can begin to deliver."
The sides had met once before at the 1974 World Cup when Haiti memorably took the lead before Italy eventually hit back to win 3-1.
Haiti had lost their previous six matches and looked set to continue their run when their static defence allowed Giaccherini to nip in and score Italy's fastest-ever goal after Antonio Candreva had pulled the ball back.
Italy, preparing for the Confederations Cup, began with a second string line-up and failed to build on the goal, struggling to create further chances.
Haiti, ranked 63rd by FIFA, gained confidence and Jeff Louis tested Italy goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu for the first time with a swerving long-range shot.
They began to create more chances after halftime as Jean Sony Alceant's cross flashed across the face of the goal, Kevin La France headed wide from a corner and Maurice fired wide when he should have at least hit the target.
Italy then brought on three heavyweights as Riccardo Montolivo, Stephan El Shaaraway and Mario Balotelli entered the fray and quickly added a second.
Thinking the ball had gone out of play, the Haiti defence stopped as Balotelli pulled it back from the byline for El Shaaraway and, although his effort was saved, Marchisio slotted home the rebound.
Italy seemed to switch off after that and a vibrant Haiti, sensing their chance, kept pouring forward and were rewarded with a memorable draw.