But the game turned seven minutes after the break when Villa's Joe Bennett was sent off for a second booking.
And, after sustained pressure, Turner's header earned a deserved draw.
Relentless second-half Norwich domination had threatened to overwhelm a Villa side who had taken the lead against the run of play.
Villa's home troubles
Villa have only won two of their last 17 home matches since beating Norwich in last season's corresponding fixture nearly a year ago
And Lambert will be relieved to earn a draw, even though it means Villa's start to the season is the club's poorest to a campaign for 43 years and leaves them hovering just above the Premier League relegation zone.
Although the vast majority of the pre-match build-up had concentrated on Lambert's Carrow Road exit, he had insisted this was "just another game".
But the apathy with which the Norwich fans greeted Lambert suggested their main feeling was of respect and gratitude to a man who had won them two promotions and masterminded such an impressive first season back in the top flight.
And with just one win apiece from a combined total of 16 league games, and both sides struggling, neither team could afford to be distracted.
Heavy defeats against Liverpool and Chelsea had left Canaries fans preparing for a miserable season, but
last Saturday's fine 1-0 win over Arsenal
seemed to have renewed their belief and an unchanged side looked busy, confident and dangerous in the opening stages.
Villa effort impresses Lambert
Grant Holt, the matchwinner against the Gunners, led the line impressively and he and the busy Wes Hoolahan posed constant problems for a reshuffled and injury-ravaged Villa defence.
Hoolahan should have put the visitors ahead when sent through by Holt's clever pass, but keeper Brad Guzan came out quickly to make a decent block with his feet.
Villa appeared nervous, struggling to retain possession, and their edginess was beginning to transmit itself to the home support.
But they took the lead with their first meaningful attack on 27 minutes after a mix-up involving both Norwich centre-backs.
Sebastien Bassong and Turner allowed Benteke too much space and the striker, who was preferred to Darren Bent up front, sent keeper John Ruddy the wrong way with a calmly slotted finish after good work by Joe Bennett.
Lambert's side finally settled and briefly threatened to build on their lead. Benteke had a header comfortably saved after the interval, but when Joe Bennett was dismissed after picking up a second caution for blocking Elliott Bennett, Norwich seized complete control.
The excellent Hoolahan went close on a couple of occasions, Holt was denied by Guzan when through one on one, and only some inspired Villa defending - particularly from Ron Vlaar - kept the visitors at bay.
Guy MowbrayBBC Match of the Day commentator
"A lively second half made up for a generally lacklustre first. It ended honours even but Norwich had the chances to win it. Villa defended so stoutly and Paul Lambert will be relieved to get a point, but Norwich will feel they should have gone on to win."
But finally the pressure told and Hoolahan was inevitably involved in the equaliser, finding the head of Turner with a delightful right-wing cross following a quickly taken short corner.
More Norwich chances followed but Guzan made several decent saves, defenders blocked a series of long-range efforts and Villa were able to hold on.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert:
"I think the sending off changed a lot. That changed the game.
"At first thought I thought it was a sending off, because when you commit a foul and you go to do something, then you put yourself in a position where you can get the red.
"But, looking at it again, I think Elliott, too, has had hold of Joe. It was a bit of an even contest and I think the two of them were at it.
"I haven't had the chance to talk to the ref [Phil Dowd] about it yet. I've only just watched a tape of it. But I thought the team were brilliant with the way they defended strongly after that.
"Will Villa will be okay? I have great belief we'll be totally fine."
Norwich City manager Chris Hughton:
"I think it was two points that got away. When you are 1-0 down, you are delighted to get back in the game.
Norwich the better side - Hughton
"If it's 0-0 and you have the pressure we had at the end, you are more disappointed.
"You can look at the game apart from possession, balance of play and amount of ball in the final third, as one of three clearcut chances.
"They had one and Benteke put it away. We had two with Wes Hoolahan and Grant Holt and we didn't but I thought having gone down 1-0, we came out second half with a good attitude and forced the issue.
"I think I would have been confident enough we would have got back in the game even with 11 men."
Close range shot by Robert Snodgrass clears the bar.
The ball is delivered by Steve Morison, Effort on goal by Ryan Bennett from inside the area goes harmlessly over the bar.
Foul by Matthew Lowton on Wesley Hoolahan, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Wesley Hoolahan.
Foul by Fabian Delph on Wesley Hoolahan, free kick awarded. Robert Snodgrass produces a strike on goal direct from the free kick.
Corner taken by Robert Snodgrass from the right by-line, clearance made by Eric Lichaj.
Centre by Andreas Weimann, Michael Turner manages to make a clearance.
Corner taken by Anthony Pilkington.
The referee blows for offside against Steve Morison. Bradley Guzan takes the indirect free kick.
Centre by Robert Snodgrass, save by Bradley Guzan.
The ball is delivered by Steve Morison.
Robert Snodgrass challenges Eric Lichaj unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Fabian Delph.
The assist for the goal came from Wesley Hoolahan.
78:03 Goal scored
Goal! - Michael Turner - A Villa 1 - 1 Norwich Michael Turner finds the back of the net with a headed goal from inside the six-yard box. Aston Villa 1-1 Norwich.
Short corner taken by Robert Snodgrass from the right by-line, The ball is swung over by Wesley Hoolahan,
Robert Snodgrass takes a shot. Blocked by Ron Vlaar.
The ball is delivered by Anthony Pilkington, Ron Vlaar makes a clearance.
Centre by Robert Snodgrass, clearance by Ron Vlaar.
Unfair challenge on Wesley Hoolahan by Fabian Delph results in a free kick. Wesley Hoolahan takes the direct free kick.
Grant Holt takes a shot. Save made by Bradley Guzan.
Substitution Andreas Weimann replaces Brett Holman.
Centre by Javier Garrido.
Karim El Ahmadi gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Wesley Hoolahan. Wesley Hoolahan takes the direct free kick.
The ball is swung over by Anthony Pilkington, save by Bradley Guzan.
Corner taken right-footed by Anthony Pilkington.
A cross is delivered by Anthony Pilkington, blocked by Marc Albrighton.
Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Anthony Pilkington, Robert Snodgrass takes a shot. Matthew Lowton gets a block in. The ball is swung over by Robert Snodgrass, Ron Vlaar manages to make a clearance.
Javier Garrido sends in a cross, clearance by Chris Herd.
The ball is delivered by Grant Holt, clearance made by Matthew Lowton.
Substitution Bradley Johnson goes off and Steve Morison comes on.
Substitution Darren Bent is brought on as a substitute for Christian Benteke.
Centre by Bradley Johnson.
Robert Snodgrass crosses the ball, clearance by Ron Vlaar.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Robert Snodgrass on Fabian Delph. Bradley Guzan restarts play with the free kick.
Corner taken by Anthony Pilkington from the left by-line played to the near post, clearance by Christian Benteke. Robert Snodgrass takes a shot. Blocked by Ron Vlaar. Bradley Johnson has an effort at goal from outside the box which goes wide right of the goal.
Substitution Robert Snodgrass comes on in place of Elliott Bennett.
Wesley Hoolahan takes a shot. Save by Bradley Guzan.
Direct free kick taken by Sebastien Bassong.
Booking Chris Herd is shown a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.
Unfair challenge on Grant Holt by Chris Herd results in a free kick.
Javier Garrido sends in a cross, comfortable save by Bradley Guzan.
Christian Benteke is caught offside. John Ruddy takes the indirect free kick.
Elliott Bennett sends in a cross. The assistant referee signals for offside against Grant Holt. Bradley Guzan takes the indirect free kick.
The ball is crossed by Ryan Bennett, clearance made by Ron Vlaar.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Chris Herd by Grant Holt. Bradley Guzan restarts play with the free kick.
Substitution Eric Lichaj replaces Gabriel Agbonlahor.
The ball is sent over by Elliott Bennett, save made by Bradley Guzan.
Free kick crossed left-footed by Anthony Pilkington from right wing, save by Bradley Guzan.
Dismissal The referee sends off Joe Bennett for second bookable offence.
Elliott Bennett fouled by Joe Bennett, the ref awards a free kick.
The ball is swung over by Matthew Lowton, Ryan Bennett makes a clearance. Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Alexander Tettey by Christian Benteke. John Ruddy restarts play with the free kick.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Grant Holt by Ron Vlaar. The free kick is swung in left-footed by Anthony Pilkington, clearance made by Christian Benteke.
Joe Bennett produces a cross, clearance made by Sebastien Bassong. Corner taken by Marc Albrighton, save made by John Ruddy.
The ball is crossed by Marc Albrighton, Christian Benteke takes a shot. Save by John Ruddy.
The referee blows his whistle to start the second half.
Substitution Ryan Bennett joins the action as a substitute, replacing Russell Martin.
45:00 +1:09 Half time
Half Time The referee blows for half time.
Bradley Johnson concedes a free kick for a foul on Fabian Delph. Joe Bennett crosses the ball, Christian Benteke takes a shot. Comfortable save by John Ruddy.
Foul by Michael Turner on Gabriel Agbonlahor, free kick awarded. Fabian Delph restarts play with the free kick.
Grant Holt has an effort at goal from outside the area which goes wide right of the goal.
Short corner worked by Anthony Pilkington.
Anthony Pilkington sends in a cross, clearance by Brett Holman.
Javier Garrido crosses the ball, clearance by Ron Vlaar.
Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Marc Albrighton from the left by-line to the near post, save by John Ruddy.
Christian Benteke takes a shot. Blocked by Michael Turner.
Fabian Delph fouled by Alexander Tettey, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick crossed left-footed by Fabian Delph.
The referee blows for offside against Wesley Hoolahan. Ron Vlaar restarts play with the free kick.
The referee blows for offside against Anthony Pilkington. Indirect free kick taken by Chris Herd.
The ball is crossed by Javier Garrido, clearance by Fabian Delph. Gabriel Agbonlahor produces a cross.
Marc Albrighton challenges Bradley Johnson unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick crossed left-footed by Anthony Pilkington.
Free kick crossed left-footed by Anthony Pilkington, save by Bradley Guzan.
Booking Joe Bennett receives a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Elliott Bennett by Joe Bennett.
The official flags Elliott Bennett offside. Bradley Guzan takes the indirect free kick.
The assist for the goal came from Brett Holman.
26:01 Goal scored
Goal! - Christian Benteke - A Villa 1 - 0 Norwich Christian Benteke finds the back of the net with a goal from deep inside the penalty box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Aston Villa 1-0 Norwich.
Karim El Ahmadi has an effort at goal from outside the box which goes wide right of the goal.
The ball is sent over by Russell Martin.
The assistant referee flags for offside against Sebastien Bassong. Bradley Guzan takes the free kick.
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Anthony Pilkington from the right by-line to the near post, clearance made by Fabian Delph.
Wesley Hoolahan takes a shot. Save by Bradley Guzan.
Christian Benteke is ruled offside. John Ruddy takes the indirect free kick.
Centre by Matthew Lowton.
Foul by Anthony Pilkington on Christian Benteke, free kick awarded. Marc Albrighton delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed from right channel, Grant Holt makes a clearance.
Elliott Bennett takes a shot and went wide of the left-hand upright.
Alexander Tettey takes a shot.
Anthony Pilkington fouled by Fabian Delph, the ref awards a free kick. John Ruddy takes the free kick.
Wesley Hoolahan is ruled offside. Chris Herd takes the indirect free kick.
Foul by Chris Herd on Wesley Hoolahan, free kick awarded. Bradley Johnson crosses the ball from the free kick left-footed from left channel, Joe Bennett manages to make a clearance.
Brett Holman takes a shot. John Ruddy makes a save.
Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Marc Albrighton from the left by-line, Christian Benteke has a headed effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the right of the goal.
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