Liam Craig levelled for 10-man St Johnstone after earlier conceding a penalty as Dundee United were held to a 1-1 draw on their Scottish Premiership return.
Nicky Clark took less than six minutes of his top-flight debut to put United in front from the spot as Premiership football returned to Tannadice following a four-year absence.
United were well worth their half-time lead and St Johnstone's hopes appeared slim after Michael O'Halloran received a second yellow card in first-half stoppage time.
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But Craig volleyed home 10 minutes into the second half and United took time to recover from the blow before being frustrated as they chased a late winner.
The Tayside derby was not lacking in intensity despite the absence of fans as Scottish football emerged from its 20-week hiatus.
United skipper Mark Reynolds unfurled the Championship title flag for the benefit of the United fans watching on live streams and they would soon have been celebrating in their living rooms.
Peter Pawlett cut open the visitors and, although Ian Harkes hesitated when the shot was on, the American set up Liam Smith to fire a shot which was blocked by Craig. Referee Kevin Clancy was well placed and pointed to the spot amid handball appeals, although Craig contended the ball had hit his chest.
Former Aberdeen trainee Clark has been a prolific goalscorer for Queen of the South, Rangers and Dunfermline but the 29-year-old was making his first top-flight appearance and marked it with a well-taken spot-kick.
Clark, making his comeback from a broken ankle suffered in January, soon set up Jamie Robson but goalkeeper Elliot Parish blocked well.
O'Halloran might have been sent off even earlier than he was, escaping with a yellow card for a studs-up challenge on Pawlett.
Saints finally got United on the back foot midway through the half when David Wotherspoon collected a long pass but the midfielder shot just wide from 20 yards after cutting inside.
The home side continued to have the better of the first-half play, with Pawlett and Callum Butcher threatening and O'Halloran put his team further in trouble.
The forward had committed another couple of fouls in between his cards and had little complaint when he was penalised for leaving his foot in on Butcher.
United striker Lawrence Shankland, who hit 29 goals last season, had several openings early in the second half but was too high with the only shot he managed to get away.
The visitors levelled when Craig volleyed home from 15 yards after debutant Danny McNamara's cross was half-cleared.
Saints were lifted and Wotherspoon and McNamara had efforts saved in quick succession as the visitors claimed the initial effort hit a defender's hand on its way towards goal.
Harkes had a shot comfortably saved from a promising break and Mellon switched tactics in the 64th minute when he brought on new signing Luke Bolton, the Manchester City loan winger, for one of his three centre-backs, Lewis Neilson.
The hosts gradually got back on top but could not trouble Parish as Saints defended well.
What the managers said
Dundee United manager Micky Mellon said: "When you go a goal up and the opposition goes down to 10 men and you have played the way you had done, you would expect as professionals to see it out.
"We just switched off in one moment of detail that we have worked very hard on. The players will know that. We were a wee bit loose when the ball got turned over and we get punished for that.
"Credit to St Johnstone, they dug in with 10 men, and then we have to go and break down a block, we kept prodding and poking away at it, but we just weren't able to undo a packed block.
"But we will learn our lessons and move on. That's what it's about, we are in a transition, we have moved up a division.
"There are a lot of players who are playing at this level again for the first time in a long time or playing for the first time, as well as having a 17-year-old (Lewis Neilson) making his debut.
"We will gather the positives and move on to training next week and be ready to move the club on again."
St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson: "Obviously it was a bad start. He gave the penalty decision and for 10-15 minutes we struggled a wee bit. We gradually came into the game and then the red card came and I thought 'oh, this is a good start'.
"I thought we were tremendous second half, I thought we were the better team. Shankland missed a chance early doors and I thought then we had a chance to get something out the game.
"You saw the energy levels and commitment and Danny McNamara's challenge late on typified the team."
"It was a sending off, no question about it. He got away with one five minutes before it and we were deliberating on the bench whether to take him off or leave him to half-time. We said 'leave it to half-time' then I turned round and he got sent off.
"Michael is desperate to do well. It's very hard to curb his enthusiasm and that discipline, it's a mixture of both. It's something he has got to learn."
Dundee United will be back in action next Saturday against Motherwell (kick off 3pm) while St Johnstone will be at home to Aberdeen on the same day, live on Sky Sports (kick off 12.30pm)