Pambos Christodoulou took charge of Cyprus for the first time and of the two managers he will perhaps be the happier with the outcome.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill would have been seeking a win against the hosts ranked 122nd in the world, but with Gareth McAuley shown a straight red on 76 minutes keeping a clean sheet at the end was a bonus.
Martin Paterson was out of luck in the early stages as Northern Ireland made a bright start, he was denied the opportunity of breaking that away goal drought by the goalkeeper who did well to deal with his goalbound header after the chance was set up by Niall McGinn.
Cyprus also had a great chance to make the breakthrough towards the end of the half when Constantinos Makrides did get his shot past St. Johnston's Alan Mannus, but Ryan McGivern did well to clear the danger.
Mannus was then called upon to make a smart save by tipping over a goalbound effort from Christofi.
Kyle Lafferty and Roy Carroll were brought on for the start of the second half and Northern Ireland enjoyed more possession.
Jamie Ward got on the end of a pass from McGinn but failed to hit the target while in a game of few chances Christofi had two efforts in quick succession, first firing over and then failed to test Carroll when well positioned.
Ward again should have done better with a half chance but any hopes of a morale boosting win disappeared when McAuley saw red card for his challenge on the troublesome Christoft.
It took a superb piece of goalkeeping to deny Cyprus a late winner, Carroll dashing off his line to deny Makris.
We had a number of players who were not quite at the pace of the game so a draw, given the level of performance, probably isn't the worst result we could have got.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill said he and the team still had a long way to go in the rebuilding process.
He said: "We are miles away from being the finished article.
"We are trying to build an international team here and it will take time.
"We weren't good in possession on the night and they were better on the ball. They put us under pressure because we continually gave the ball away cheaply and that was the most disappointing thing for us.
"In the second half we were better, we had one or two half chances, but the lads know we are capable of a lot more than that."
O'Neill said he felt McAuley's dismissal for a late challenge on Dimitris Christofis was probably fair.
He added: "It looked like the guy was possibly through so Gareth was given a decision to make and stretched to get there.
"I would want to see it again but I wouldn't say it was totally unjustified.
"In a friendly game could the referee have given a yellow? Possibly, because their player wasn't through the middle of the pitch, he was coming from the wide area.
"But we gave the ball away poorly and it was disappointing to see one of our defenders put in that position."
Cyprus: Georgallidis, Kyriakou, Antoniades, Makridis (Charalambidis - 64 ), Merkis, Júnior Dossa Momade, Christofi (Makris - 85), Laban, Kyriakou - 67), Mitidis, Nikolaou (Artymatas - 58 ), Aloneftis (Efrem - 51).
Northern Ireland: Mannus (Carroll - 45), Cathcart, McGivern, Norwood (McCourt - 74), McAuley, Bruce, McGinn (Ferguson - 73), Davis, Paterson (Lafferty - 45), Brunt, Ward, (McKay - 63).