Gary Bowyer told his Blackburn players their performance against Derby at Pride Park has to set the tone for the remainder of the season.
Bowyer's first game in charge since signing a 12-month rolling contract over the summer was at the club where he spent six years as an academy coach prior to joining Rovers in 2004.
He saw his side start with intent and create the better chances throughout the game, which was one of six fixtures this weekend hand-picked by the Football League to mark its 125th anniversary celebrations.
It looked like Derby would hold on to the 43rd-minute lead given to them by debutant Johnny Russell from the penalty spot.
But substitute Leon Best, who struck the post with an effort on the hour, rescued Rovers a point two minutes from the end of regulation time with a superbly-taken volley.
It was a huge boost for Blackburn following a summer of rebuilding at Ewood Park.
Bowyer, who handed starts to four of his close-season signings and included another three new arrivals on the bench, said: ''I'm very pleased, it's a good start.
''We said over the summer that it would take time and that some patience would be needed but we should be pleased with that performance against a side that were very strong at home last season.
''We saw the character and spirit of the players and we created the better chances.
''We started well and I think if you look at our chances, we should have been up early doors. Leon then had one that hit the post and then you start to wonder if it's going to be our day.
''But we got what we deserved - at least what we deserved - in the end and it was a great goal. Chris Taylor came on and put in a fantastic cross and it really is a great finish from Leon.
''It's a marker put down for us but let's not get too carried away with it, it's only the first game of the season.''
Best came on as a first-half replacement for the injured Ruben Rochina.
On the Spaniard's injury, Bowyer added: ''It's his shoulder and he's had a shoulder injury before so let's hope for the best.''
Best's equaliser denied Derby a fourth opening-day league win in the last five years.
Despite the disappointment of conceding so late, Rams manager Nigel Clough was satisfied with the overall result.
''On the balance of the game, I thought it was a fair result actually,'' said Clough.
''They started the game well, then we changed it slightly halfway through the first half and got on top. Maybe over the course of the 90 minutes they had enough chances, so a draw might be fair.
''It's always difficult the first one, it's a big occasion for everybody and I'm delighted we didn't lose.''
Russell, a summer signing from Dundee United, marked his debut with a confidently-taken penalty - a relief for the Rams, who had missed their previous four spot-kicks.
Clough added: ''I'm glad we scored a penalty because we have missed the last five or six! It's good we have got someone who can tuck them in.
''It's a good boost for him, getting a goal on his debut. It's just disappointing the manner in which we conceded the goal, and the lateness of it.''