Nishino opted to start the match without the only specialist striker he had named in his 23-man national squad, leaving Supachai Chaided on the bench.
However, the veteran Japanese coach handed a debut to defensive midfielder Phitiwat Sookjitthammakul.
Supachai's absence in the attack had no impact on the home team's performance as the Thais looked far more surefooted than the visitors at the slippery Thammasat Stadium pitch.
Thailand's crafty playmaker Chanathip Songkrasin was a victim of numerous pulls and shoves during the goalless first half during which the War Elephants missed a couple of scoring chances.
Sprightly Supachok Sarachat and J-League-based Thitiphan Puangjan caused trouble for Vietnam defenders with Tristan Do feeding them well off the right wing.
The Vietnamese mainly relied on counter-attacks but most of their forays ran into a strong wall of Thai defenders.
Nishino, in a bid to add more bite to the attack, replaced defensive midfielder Sarach Yooyen with Supachai soon after the hour mark and was forced to send in Peeradol Chamrasmee 15 minutes later when Thitiphan picked up a leg injury.
Vietnam recorded a dramatic improvement in the second half and were able to match the hosts in every department of the game.
The two sides traded attacks, which yielded no goals as the exciting tussle ended in a goalless stalemate but only after Vietnam coach Park Hang-Seo was handed a yellow-card warning.
Mongolia and North Korea both started with wins.
Mongolia, ranked 187th in the world and playing in the second round of qualifying for the first time, beat Myanmar 1-0 in Ulaanbaatar. Amaraa Dulguun scored the lone goal in the 17th minute of the Group F match.
North Korea defeated Lebanon 2-0 in Group H with Jong Il-Gwan scoring both goals in Pyongyang.
The winners of each of the eight groups and the four best second-place teams will advance to the next round.