Both sides created opportunities to score in an even first 45 minutes that saw Saints' on-loan Aberdeen winger Peter Pawlett and Stuart Armstrong denied by their opposing goalkeepers.
The second half was poor by comparison and it was no surprise that the stalemate continued right through to the full-time whistle.
The result leaves the home side without a win in their last 14 competitive outings.
Dundee United manager Peter Houston was able to name in-demand striker Johnny Russell in his starting line-up after the Tannadice side rebuffed advances from Huddersfield for the 22-year-old and his Scotland Under-21 team-mate Gary Mackay-Steven on Friday.
The Tangerines had described the Championship side's £1.25million bid as "an insult" and Houston will have been thrilled to have survived the transfer window with two of his star players still at the club.
However, Russell was largely anonymous throughout a derby that was crying out for the kind of inspiration he can supply.
Mackay-Steven was an absentee for the Perth encounter after undergoing a knee operation that is expected to keep him out of action for up to six weeks, with Stuart Armstrong brought in from the shock 3-1 defeat away to Kilmarnock last weekend.
In the home ranks, Callum Davidson missed out with a groin injury and Nigel Hasselbaink dropped down to the bench, with Gary Miller drafted in and Pawlett afforded his first start as manager Steve Lomas sought his team's first victory of the season.
United were the first to work an attempt on goal after just 90 seconds.
Defender Gavin Gunning speared a great ball in to the feet of John Rankin 40 yards out but the midfielder's eventual right-foot shot trundled a couple of feet wide of the target.
Skipper Jon Daly fed strike partner Russell and his lay-off teed up Willo Flood perfectly, but the midfielder's powerful drive whistled just past the post.
It was far from one-way traffic in the opening stages, however, with St Johnstone easing their way into the match and looking lively with Gregory Tade and Pawlett eager to impress.
Tade might have done better midway through the half when referee Willie Collum deserved credit for waving play on following a foul on the striker.
Miller eventually swept a fantastic cross in from the right flank but the Frenchman's header from six yards out was off target.
Both keepers were then brought into the action in a two-minute burst. First, Pawlett nutmegged Barry Douglas in the 28th minute to create space on the right side of the box but Radoslaw Cierzniak was equal to the winger's stinging shot and beat it away.
Two minutes later, Armstrong deceived Miller on the United left but keeper Alan Mannus dived to his right to repel the midfielder's net-bound drive.
Proceedings were becoming increasingly feisty as the half wore on and United, who had to replace the injured Keith Watson with Brian McLean, survived loud appeals from the hosts for a penalty after 40 minutes when Sean Dillon eased Tade off the ball.
The second period opened in frustrating fashion for both sides as neither managed to gain a stranglehold on possession.
With his team struggling to make an impression, United boss Houston introduced his remaining replacements, with skipper Daly limping off to be replaced by Michael Gardyne in attack and Ryan Dow coming on in place of Richie Ryan in midfield.
Tade lofted one half-chance over the bar on the turn after engineering space 14 yards out.
Without Daly to target up front, United looked a little bit lost as they sought the inspiration needed to find a breakthrough.
Rowan Vine should have done better as Saints mounted a counter-attack that deserved more than his poor low cross.
Seconds later Steven Anderson was throwing himself in front of John Rankin's drive from the edge of the box.
Then Cierzniak had to block a low shot from substitute Hasselbaink in the 82nd minute.