In front of a packed Odyssey Arena home crowd, it was the Giants who stamped their mark on the game in the first period. Two special team goals were finished off by Craig Peacock at 7:14 and 19.11.
An action-packed second period started much like the first, with the hosts extending their advantage with Jeffrey Swzez on target at 22:43. However, the visitors responded less than a minute later with Robert Farmer scoring at 23:53.
A quick response from the Giants just seconds later saw Colin Shields extend the lead at 24:07. The hosts then made it 5-1 at 28.25 with a goal from Darryl Lloyd.
The final goal of the contest arrived straight from the face off as the Panthers got what looks like a consolation as Jonathan Weaver was on target at 28:31.
The final period ended goalless with neither side able to add to their tally. Tempers flared in the late stages of the game but the gloves remained on. Greg Jacina of the Panthers however received a 2 plus 10 penalty at 59:06 for checking to the head as frustration set in for the visitors.
Nottingham, who have won the Challenge Cup for the past four seasons will have it all to do in the return leg after an unconvincing display against the Elite League Champions.
The Giants, meanwhile can firmly start believing of a clean sweep of trophies this season. Having already clinched the league title by some margin, they now aim to complete a Challenge Cup triumph before embarking on an end-of-season play-off challenge.
Giants fans can dare to dream of adding to what has been a sensational season for their side. Young fan, Andy McNally said, “It was a brilliant game. A fantastic display both attacking and defensively”. He added, “They have set themselves up well to go on and win the trophy with a three-goal advantage.”
The second leg takes place in Nottingham on Tuesday 25th March, with face-off at 7.30pm.