Elvis Kamsoba found the back of the net, but the dawn of new A-League eras for Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City ended in a 0-0 draw at Marvel Stadium.
With coach Marco Kurz on the touchline for an A-League match for the first time for Victory and Erick Mombaerts likewise for City, both sides had decent chances to claim all three points but had to settle for a share of the spoils in front of 33,523 fans on Saturday night.
Kamsoba looked to have broken through for his maiden A-League goal for the victory in the 56th minute but the Burundian winger was ruled offside by the video assistant referee. It was a shame because the call wasted a superb goal celebration by Kamsoba, who went backflipping toward the corner flag then stuck the landing in a manner that would have done an Olympic gymnast proud.
The first half largely lacked the energy and intensity typical of the heated rivalry, which was perhaps to be expected given the extensive changes in personnel and tactical overhauls embarked upon in the offseason.
The tempo picked up in the second and so did the spite, which boiled over deep in injury time when Victory skipper Ola Toivonen and Harrison Delbridge were shown yellow cards after a VAR review of their clash just outside City's box.
Both sides had the look of lineups still getting to know each other, but there were still chances at either end. New signing Andrew Nabbout, who impressed down the right side for the Victory, nearly found Toivonen for a tap-in in the ninth minute, and Lachie Wales' low shot at the other end just two minutes later went tantalisingly past the left post.
Toivonen put Kamsoba through with a beautiful ball after the restart, and the winger made no mistake with his low shot to the left of the despairing lunge of City gloveman Dean Bouzanis only to be denied, correctly, by VAR.
The Victory skipper sent a searing long-range shot fizzing over the crossbar just minutes later. Substitute Moudi Najjar nearly snatched the points with a cracking strike two minutes into injury time but it narrowly went past the crossbar.
The result was the eighth local derby draw between the sides, with the Victory still on 12 wins and City nine.
"I don't think our performance was better than City's and that means the draw is a fair result," Kurz said.
"We had a couple of good moments but our crossing and our final passes are not clear enough to create [more] chances."
City lacked the killer instinct around goal of star striker Jamie Maclaren, who is away with the Socceroos, but Mombaerts felt his side deserved better than a draw.
"I'm a little bit disappointed ... we had some good chances but we score no goals," he said. "I'm also happy about the performance of the team ... it was a good start."