Patrick van Aanholt and Lucas Piazon, both on loan from Chelsea, put Vitesse 2-0 in front by halftime but Bryan Linssen scored twice after the break for the home side to end Vitesse's run of seven successive wins in all competitions.
Vitesse even had to scramble the ball off their goal-line in the last minute to preserve a share of the spoils.
Ajax now have a chance to lead the standings on goal difference with a win at struggling Roda JC Kerkrade on Sunday.
"Maybe we're not good enough," Vitesse coach Peter Bosz told FOX Sports. "We were hauled back after halftime because we stopped playing and gave away too much possession. That was our problem, we let two points slip away unnecessarily."
Vitesse have 37 points from 18 games, three ahead of Ajax, and Twente Enschede, who drew 1-1 at RKC Waalwijk on Friday.
Fourth-placed Feyenoord's Lex Immers netted twice and Jean-Paul Boetius also scored in a 3-0 victory over PEC Zwolle as they moved on to 33 points.
Heerenveen's Iceland striker Alfred Finnbogason equalled the club record of 27 goals in a calendar year by scoring in a 5-1 win at AZ Alkmaar as they moved on to 29 points in fifth.
The victory was a measure of revenge for Heerenveen who had lost 7-6 on penalties to AZ in the Dutch Cup last 16 in midweek.
- Sports & Recreation
- Bryan Linssen
- Lucas Piazon
- Patrick van Aanholt