The western students were 1-2 in front by the fifth minute, their goal coming from Cathal Mannion.
Carlow were in deeper trouble five minutes later when a free from inside his own 65 from Bobby Duggan slipped into the home net.
But a fine Edward Coady goal on 16 minutes kick-started Carlow. They trailed 2-8 to 1-4 at half time before shooting seven unanswered points early in the second half to level.
Late on, a long-range point from Ger Coady was followed by a levelling point from Paul Coady.
Scorers for Carlow: P Coady 0-4 (all frees), D Byrne 0-3, E Coady 1-0, G Coady 0-2, E Byrne, J Kavanagh, S Murphy, H P O’Byrne 0-1 each.
Scorers for NUIG: B Duggan 1-5 (1-3 frees), N O’Brien 0-3, C Mannion 1-0, G Hennelly, S Hynes 0-1 each.
Carlow: K Kehoe; A Corcoran, M Ryan, E Nolan; R Coady, J Rogers, G Coady; D English, D Byrne; E Coady, E Byrne, J Kavanagh; C Wall, S Murphy, P Coady.
Subs: H P O’Byrne for Wall (42), S Murphy for E Coady (45); S Kavanagh for Rogers (59); A Gaule for E Byrne (64).
NUIG: C Fahy; L Kilcline, J Hanbury, R Lane; C Diviney, C Cleary, S Hynes; N O’Brien, S Ward; N Deasy, N Burke, B Duggan; C Mannion, G Hennelly, S Dooley.
Subs: G Joyce for Diviney (45); B O’Connor for Dooley l(48); K Ryan for Hennelly (66).
Referee: P Burke (Kilkenny).