Belfast Giants will take a 4-3 lead into Sunday's second leg in the play-offs quarter-final against Nottingham after Friday's tight first leg.
The Giants looked in control as goals from Darcy Murphy, David Rutherford and Colin Shields put them 3-0 ahead.
However, David Clarke replied before the end of the first period and Mark Derlago added a second Panthers goal early in the second period.
John Kurtz's strike put Belfast 4-2 up before Clarke notched his second goal.
Murphy opened the scoring when he took advantage of a turnover right in front of the Panthers goal with nine minutes on the clock.
Within little more than a minute it was 2-0 as Rutherford scored on the power play as he squeezed a shot past Patrick Galbraith in the Panthers goal.
Shields then raised the roof with a stunning slapshot from the point, again on the power play, to make it 3-0.
The Panthers looked to be struggling against a now rampant Belfast but weathered the rest of the storm during the remainder of the first period and a goalmouth scramble in the last few seconds ended with Clarke forcing the puck past Jackson Whistle.
The SSE Arena crowd was then silenced in the opening minute of the second period as Derlago netted.
The visitors threatened to get on terms before the Giants scored their fourth of the night as Kurtz's effort trickled in past an unsighted Galbraith.
However, Clarke's second goal midway through the final period means the Giants will head to Nottingham on Sunday with a slender advantage.