It took almost an hour for the opening of the end-of-the-Pierre show, but the arrival on the scene of Van Hooijdonk did the trick.
The Dutch international had been on bench duty for his country 24 hours earlier in their 3-1 World Cup defeat of Belgium, and he flew into Heathrow from Amsterdam yesterday morning.
The league's top goalscorer had not been on for five minutes when he created the game's best chance, leaving Kevin Campbell with only Fraser Digby to beat with an inch-perfect chip.
But, as everything had done in a powder-puff first half, Campbell's effort finished in the crowd.
Forest were coming off the back of a surprise home defeat by Manchester City and spent long periods of the opening 45 minutes camped in Swindon territory.
An attack boosted by the forays of Geoff Thomas teased and tested Swindon, but Chris Bart-Williams was profligate with an early chance, Alan Rogers brought a good save from Digby and Steve Chettle's thunderbolt was just over the top.
Campbell should have done better than to balloon his shot over from 15 yards and, at the other end, Philippe Cuervo panicked after his 30-yard jinking run had put him in a good position.
That Swindon were still level owed much to the coolness under pressure of their captain Alan McDonald.
In the veteran class now, his distribution was exemplary and his interceptions always timely.
His heart must have been in his mouth, though, when Van Hooijdonk, in quick succession, was just wide with two headers and brought a fine save from Digby with a dipping shot from 25 yards.
Even then, with time running out, Van Hooijdonk found Bart-Williams in a lovely position to head home from his chipped cross, but Brian Borrows, on loan from Coventry, cleared off the line.
A point steadied the ship for Forest, while Swindon have still been beaten only once - but Forest's halo is slipping a little. They have lost top spot to West Bromwich and left their manager Dave Bassett cursing his side's misfortune up front.
Swindon Town (5-3-2): Digby; Darras, Borrows, Bullock, Casper, McDonald; Walters, Cuervo, Allison; Hay, Gooden. Substitutes not used: Drysdale, Watson, McAreavey.
Nottingham Forest (4-3-3): Beasant; Lyttle, Rogers (Armstrong, 75), Hjelde, Chettle; Thomas, Johnson, Gemmill; Saunders (Van Hooijdonk, 56), Campbell, Bart-Williams. Substitute not used: Bonalair.
Referee: R J Harris (Oxford).
Bookings: Swindon: Bullock, Cuervo. Nottingham Forest: Thomas, Hjelde, Johnson, Bart-Williams.
Man of the match: McDonald (Swindon).
Attendance: 13,051.Reuse content