A penalty from stand-off Chris Bell and an unconverted try from right winger Sam Wilson put Ionians into an early lead, but Loughborough did get off the mark just before half-time with stand-off Owen Waters kicking a penalty.
Shortly after play resumed, the students pulled level with prop Owen Hills crashing over, and the conversion from Waters gave them a slight lead.
Ionians kept battling, though, and centre Lewis Minkin touched down with 14 minutes left, Bell converting to edge the Yorkshire side into a 15-10 lead.
But, with two minutes left, the visitors’ Theo Vukasinovic scored a try to draw level – and Ionians breathed a sigh of relief when the conversion was missed.
The result leaves the pair 13th and 14, respectively, and still in danger of the drop.
A late try came from winger Jamie Broadley helped Sheffield Tigers record a hard-fought victory over bottom of the table Luctonians at Dore Moor in National Two.
The visitors opened a 12-0 lead before Tigers could hit back, fly-half Mark Ireland kicking a penalty and Tom Hart scoring a try – but another penalty for Luctonians gave them a 15-8 lead at half-time.
Full-back Pete Swatkins touched down shortly after the break and Ireland converted to pull them level, and Louis Taylor’s try mid-way through the half put Tigers into a precarious lead.
With 10 minutes left, Luctonians levelled once again with a try, only for winger Broadley to score late on to secure a much-needed five-point victory.
Sheffield lost out 29-23 on their visit to Blaydon.
The one losing bonus point was scant reward for Sheffield, who remain third bottom of the table and are now level on points with Blaydon.
There was little joy for Yorkshire teams across National Two, with Wharfedale also having to settle for a four-try bonus point from their 37-28 defeat at Leicester Lions.
Tries from George Hedgley, Tom Barrett, Dan Stockdale and Philip Woodhead – plus all four conversions from Barrett – were not enough for the Yorkshire side.
Huddersfield lost out 19-10 at home against rivals Chester, who climb above them in the table on the back of the win.
Otley could only manage one try as they were well beaten 59-5 at top of the table Sale.
Hull took a narrow 26-20 victory over Sandal in the North Premier league after battling back from a 17-5 deficit at half-time.
The West Yorkshire side battled well throughout the match, but were let down by a spell in the second half where they had three men in the sin-bin.
Tries from off-half James Ellar and centre Steve Nolson – plus two conversions and a penalty from Ellar – put Sandal ahead at half-time, Hull’s Steve Johnson having scored their try.
After the break, Hull props Mike Dias and Ben Bootham scored tries which Johnson converted to close to one point at 20-19, and winger Mike Adlard’s late score and Johnson’s conversion put Hull ahead.
Sandal pushed hard late in the match but Hull’s defence just held out.
Harrogate battled to a 26-7 win at Rossendale, with tries coming from Luke Edwards, Jonny Coser, Danny Matthews and centre Euan Miller, with Luke White kicking three conversions.
Ilkley’s pitch was water-logged so their match with Wirral will have to be rearranged.
Leaders Driffield were made to work hard for an 18-15 win at West Hartlepool, while Huddersfield YMCA were narrow 23-21 winners over Bridlington.
York will take on Cheshire side Bowdon in the Northern Final of the RFU’s Intermediate Cup after hammering hosts Gateshead 81-5 in their last pool match.