Perpignan (16) 23
Gareth Wyatt's try gave the Dragons an early lead at Perpignan
Tries: Guirado, Tuilagi.
Cons: Rosalen 2.
Pens: Rosalen 3.
Dragons (5) 19
Tries: Wyatt, Bearman, Sweeney.
Cons: Sweeney 2.
Newport Gwent Dragons came within a whisker of a shock victory at Perpignan but had to settle for a losing bonus point in their Heineken Cup opener.
Gareth Wyatt scored an early try for the Welsh, but Perpignan led 16-5 at the break through Guilhem Guirado's try and 11 points kicked by Cedric Rosalen.
Joe Bearman crossed after half-time but Henry Tuilagi replied for Perpignan.
Ceri Sweeney sparked a frantic finale as his late try and conversion brought the Dragons to within four points.
Soon after kick-off the game had to be halted for 10 minutes because of a worrying head injury to the Dragons' teenage flanker Dan Lydiate.
The youngster was eventually stretchered off by the attending medical staff at the Stade Aime Giral, but regained consciousness in the dressing room and was taken to hospital for tests.
It was the Dragons who were first to find their way over the line through experienced wing Wyatt in the 13th minute, although Rosalen had kicked a penalty for Perpignan.
Full-back Jerome Perical failed to collect Richard Mustoe's speculative kick up field, and Wyatt pounced to hand the Dragons a 5-3 lead.
Dragons flanker Dan Lydiate suffered a worrying injury
Perpignan took the most direct route to strike back within five minutes with a try for Guirado.
The hooker barged over close to the posts, after Rimas Alvarez Kairelis supported Gavin Hume's initial break, with Rosalen adding the conversion.
Two more penalties from the reliable boot of Rosalen handed Perpignan a 16-5 lead at the break, but again it was the Dragons who started brightest in the second half.
Wales veteran Colin Charvis put them on the front foot; scrum-half Andy Williams kept the attack moving, before Lydiate's replacement Bearman stormed over on 50 minutes.
Sweeney's conversion reduced the deficit to four points as the Welsh region threatened a remarkable comeback, with Perpignan short of confidence following a losing start to the French Championship campaign.
But as the Dragons grew in belief, Perpignan's summer signing Tuilagi delivered a timely boost, the giant Samoa number eight smashing through on the hour to re-establish an 11-point lead.
Indiscipline then cost Perpignan as Scotland star Nathan Hines was singled out when referee Alan Lewis lost patience with his team's indiscretions and flashed the yellow card on 68 minutes.
That saw the momentum swing back as the Dragons forwards made the most of their extra man to carve out space for Sweeney to cross.
The try and conversion sealed a valuable bonus point, but the Dragons were unable to carve out one last try that would have claimed a famous win.
Perpignan: Jerome Porical; Federico Martin-Aramburu, David Marty, Gavin Hume, Julien Candelon; Cedric Rosalen, Nicolas Durand; Kisi Pulu, Guilhem Guirado, Nicolas Mas, Rimas Alvarez Kairelis, Nathan Hines (capt), Viliami Vaki, Damien Chouly, Henri Tuilagi.
Replacements: Mickael Ladhuie for Guirado (74), Sebastian Bozzi for Mas (74), Olivier Olibeau for Alvarez (80), Charles Geli for Tuilagi (63), Chris Cusiter for Durand (75), Thomas Anies for Rosalen (70), Adrien Plante.
Sin Bin: Hines (68).
Dragons: Martyn Thomas; Gareth Wyatt, Rhodri Gomer-Davies, Ashley Smith, Richard Mustoe; Ceri Sweeney, Andy Williams; Adam Black, Steve Jones, Rhys Thomas, Luke Charteris, Michael Owen, Dan Lydiate, Richard Parks, Colin Charvis.
Replacements: Ben Daly for S. Jones (64), Hugh Gustafson for Black (66), Joe Bearman for Lydiate (21), Jamie Ringer for Charvis (75), Wayne Evans for Wyatt (64), Aled Thomas, Paul Emerick for Davies (66.
Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland).