Wasps (16) 26
Tries: Varndell 2 Con: Van Gisbergen Pens: Van Gisbergen 3
Harlequins (15) 15
Tries: Monye, Camacho Con: Evans Pen: Evans
Varndell scored two tries for Wasps on debut
Tom Varndell scored two tries on debut as Wasps kicked off their Guinness Premiership campaign with a win over beleaguered Harlequins at Twickenham.
Quins had lock George Robson sent off for head-butting just 46 seconds into the game but still went 12-5 up.
Ugo Monye and Gonzalo Camacho scored tries while Varndell crossed twice to give Wasps a 16-15 lead at the break.
Mark van Gisbergen's third penalty extended it before Wasps ended Quins' resistance with a late penalty try.
Quins were always going to be under the microscope after being found guilty of using fake blood capsules in an attempt to cheat their way to victory in last season's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Leinster.
One group of supporters in the south-west corner of Twickenham were dressed in dracula outfits, complete with capes, fangs and fake blood painted around their mouths.
The banter that had been whipping around the Twickenham bars was generally good-natured, although one Wasps fan took exception to the Harlequins mascot and doused him with a pint of beer.
But after their part in rugby's summer of shame, Robson's moment of madness inside the first minute was hardly the step on the road to redemption Quins were looking for.
Wasps centre Steve Kefu had just fired a kick directly into touch when Robson became embroiled in an off-the-ball scuffle and aimed a head-butt at Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson.
Referee Dean Richards - a deliciously ironic appointment by the Rugby Football Union given the role his suspended namesake played in the Bloodgate saga - took advice from his assistant and brandished the red card.
To their credit, Quins responded superbly to the adversity, their makeshift scrum competing well and Nick Evans directing matters at fly-half.
They took a deserved lead after 10 minutes when David Strettle gathered Evans' cross kick, jinked in from the right wing and then sent Monye, playing at full-back, over with a one-handed pass.
Wasps responded with a debut try from Varndell, who started the move with a 50m break and then finished it after a darting run and delayed pass from Danny Cipriani.
But immediately from Evans' restart, Quins scrum-half Danny Care picked out Camacho with a perfectly weighted cross-kick.
Evans converted the try and then landed a penalty earned from a scrum.
Van Gisbergen, kicking instead of Cipriani, drew Wasps back into it with two penalties of his own and Varndell struck again just before the interval after Wasps stole line-out ball on the Quins 22.
Harlequins continued to show the right kind of fighting spirit after the interval, defending valiantly keeping out Cipriani and Ben Jacobs before eventually conceding a penalty which Van Gisbergen slotted.
Evans missed two penalty shots that would have earned Quins a narrow lead.
But as the 14 men tired, Wasps cranked up the pressure in the closing minutes and won a penalty try from a driving line-out maul which denied them even a losing bonus point.
Wasps coach Tony Hanks:
"I don't like playing against 14 men. Sometimes they dig a bit deeper, sometimes you get caught out thinking there is space.
"I am very pleased with the result. I would take a one-point win against 12 men first game of the season.
"It was a mixed bag for us. We know we have plenty to work on but we saw some good stuff out there that we can develop."
Harlequins coach John Kingston:
"The players performed admirably.
"They showed a tremendous resolve which in the circumstances, when you lose a man in the first minute, it would have been very easy to fold.
"Knowing what I know about them, we knew it was never going to happen. We showed huge resolve but from the first minute we never had the opportunity to show what we are about."
Wasps: van Gisbergen; Varndell, Jacobs, Kefu, Lemi; Cipriani, Simpson; Payne, Webber, Bocca, Skivington, Birkett, Hart, Betsen, Ward-Smith.
Replacements: Fury for Simpson (78), Broster for Payne (41), Ellis for Hart (78).
Not Used: Ward, French, Leo, Walder, Mitchell.
Harlequins: Monye; Strettle, Tiesi, Turner-Hall, Camacho; N Evans, Care; Jones, Botha, Lambert, Robson, Percival, Robshaw, Skinner, Easter.
Replacements: Lowe for Camacho (77), Fuga for Botha (58), J Evans for Percival (52), Baker for Robshaw (70).
Not Used: Croall, Andress, So'oialo, Clegg.
Sent Off: Robson (1).
Ref: Dean Richards (RFU).