The Seagulls carried the most threat throughout before a noisy crowd of 24,623 at the Amex Stadium.
Brighton, beaten on the opening day of the season for the previous three years, threatened early on and Dutch goalkeeper Dorus De Vries was forced to make a diving save to keep out a shot from LuaLua in the fifth minute.
The hosts had a let-off three minutes later when a curling right-footed free-kick by Forest skipper Henri Lansbury struck the outside of goalkeeper David Stockdale’s left-hand post.
Brighton, giving debuts to Israel striker Tomer Hemed and Cameroon defender Gaetan Bong, were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position when LuaLua was brought down by Eric Lichaj. Beram Kayal’s attempt hit the wall and was deflected over.
De Vries later showed alertness to save a goal-bound low shot from former Newcastle winger LuaLua.
Forest striker Dexter Blackstock headed a Jamie Ward cross wide from eight yards before Kayal fired against the post from the edge of the area.
Michail Antonio capped a strong run through the middle with a rasping shot which Stockdale pushed round his left-hand post.
Sam Baldock was narrowly off-target from 20 yards moments after Hemed had gone close with a looping header.-
Brighton’s former Celtic midfielder Kayal received a caution for a late tackle on Lansbury after Forest manager Dougie Freedman was forced to withdraw the injured Robert Tesche in favour of David Vaughan.
De Vries came to Forest’s rescue in first-half stoppage time with a tremendous flying save to keep out Hemed’s header after he was set up by Solly March.
Brighton took the lead in style five minutes after the break through LuaLua, who beat Lichaj for pace on the edge of the box before cutting in to beat De Vries with a low left-footed shot into the corner.
LuaLua went close to doubling the advantage when he burst through, after again getting the better of Lichaj, but his fierce left-footed drive flew over.
Forest continued to live dangerously and March should have hit the target when bursting clean through midway through the second half.
Lansbury later put a free-kick over from the edge of the box as Forest struggled to get back on terms.
A slip in midfield by LuaLua allowed substitute Tyler Walker to race through, but his low shot was kept out by the alert Stockdale.
March should have sealed Brighton’s victory in the last minute but shot wastefully over having been set up by substitute Liam Rosenior.
Brighton boss Chris Hughton:
He said: “It is a nice way in which to start the season. It was a typical Championship game, being fairly tight, but we deserved to win it.
“I felt we were unfortunate to come in at half-time 0-0 but our concentration let us down soon after the break. After that our response was fantastic.”