Steven MacLean gave the Perth club a crucial away goal last night as they held their Swiss hosts to a draw.
The Scottish Cup holders were under pressure throughout the first half but they stunned the home side two minutes after the break, with MacLean prodded a shot into the net from eight yards out. That goal was cancelled out on the night when Marco Schneuwly forced in a goal with 21 minutes remaining, but the Perth side still have the relative advantage of an away goal.
St Johnstone defeated Rosenborg and then FC Minsk away from home in last year's competition before being eliminated by the Belarusians in a penalty shootout. Their route to the next phase would appear to be a little smoother this season, with the side impressing against Lucerne.
It might have seemed like a typical performance, since St Johnstone are obliged to rely on the same squad that performed so well last season. Indeed, while Nigel Hasselbaink, Paddy Cregg, Tim Clancy and Chris Iwelumo have all been allowed to leave the club, Tommy Wright has yet to make any new signings.
Injuries meant Steven Anderson and Gary McDonald did not even board the plane to Switzerland, while last season's top goalscorer Stevie May was limited to a place on the bench having failed to overcome the effects of a thigh strain. That meant that MacLean was left to perform as the lone striker last night, although he soon had plenty of company as he was mobbed by team-mates after the opening goal.
That came within two minutes of the restart when Lucerne failed to clear a corner and also left MacLean unchecked as he got on the end of David Wotherspoon's cross. Only an equaliser from Schneuwly would dampen the mood as St Johnstone kept their hosts at bay to smuggle a crucial advantage back to Perth.