SuperSport had Edwin Gyimah sent off just before half-time, while Pirates finished the match with 10 men as Rooi Mahamutsa was sent off at the death.
It is bound to be a heated return game next weekend. Neutrals will hope to see fewer cards and more goals.
The Buccaneers will be disappointed that they were unable to take advantage of having a man's advantage for more than half of the match.
Pirates started the stronger of the two teams and had a penalty appeal turned down in the eighth minute when Benni McCarthy's goal-bound shot was blocked by Bevan Fransman. Replays suggested referee Thabo Nkosi got the decision right.
SuperSport then settled into the game, with their midfield trio of Gyimah, Geroge Maluleka and Moffat Mdluli making life tough for Bucs, although the hosts struggled to create clear scoring chances.
The two best opportunities of the first half went the way of Pirates. On the half hour mark Thulasizwe Mbuyane controlled an Andile Jali cross before getting away a low shot from a tight angle that trickled across the face of goal.
Four minutes later left-back Thabo Matlaba surged into the box with a mazy run before cutting inside to shoot with his right foot, but Fransman again was in the right place to make a crucial block.
Just before the half-time break Matsatsantsa were reduced to 10 men when Gyimah received a straight red card. The midfielder lashed out in retaliation at Manti Moholo after a 50-50 challenge between the two, and was given his marching orders.
Pirates were lucky not to be reduced to 10 men themselves when Jali, already on a yellow card, committed a foul against substitute Franklyn Cale that was worthy of a straight red, never mind a mere second caution, but this time the match officials missed the offence.
On 68 minutes Mpho Makola had a great chance to score his first goal for Pirates after great set-up play by Tlou Segolela and Mbuyane, but he directed his shot straight at Ronwen Williams.
Pirates continued to pile on the pressure in an attempt to take advantage of their numerical advantage, but were unable to force a goal against a determined United defence that allowed them nothing but half-chances in the last quarter of the game.
The match ended in controversy, with Pirates' Rooi Mahamutsa sent off after the final whistle for an idiotic kick on Thabiso Nkoana.