It was another mediocre first half at the London Stadium, with chances for Viktor Fischer and Mark Noble.
Christian Stuani managed to give Aitor Karanka's side the lead at the beginning of the second period, before Payet's excellent effort managed to save a point for the Hammers.
Slow start to the contest
Slaven Bilic's men headed into the contest with the newly-promoted side under immense pressure.
It certainly wasn't a good start to the proceedings, with full-back Sam Byram been stretchered off with a suspected hamstring injury.
Boro had the first opportunity of the contest, as the Dutchman's effort looked to have Adrian well beaten but it was just wide of the post.
The next chance of any merit didn't arise until seconds before the break, and it was Hammers who came within inches of the lead.
Noble tried to hit one from inside the area, which looked destined for the net, but it came flying off the underside of the crossbar.
Taking the lead
The second half looked to be heading in the same direction - much to the disappointment of the London Stadium - and was made worse as Boro took the lead.
Jordan Rhodes caused trouble as he got beyond James Collins and Winston Reid, but Adrian did well to palm it wide.
Stuani rose highest to Fischer's corner, his header looked to have been heroically headed off the line by Noble, though Neil Swarbrick gave the goal much to the dismay of the Hammers faithful.
Back in it in style
The goal seemed to kick the Hammers into gear, and they found themselves back in the game five minutes later in the most spectacular fashion.
Payet picked up the ball on the touchline, and nobody will have expected what would happen next. The Frenchman managed to cut inside and making his way all the way across the area, taking on five before slotting it into the far corner.
It could have been a complete turnaround, as he stepped up for a free kick in the 64th minute, but it was straight into the wall.
The game's tempo went dead after Payet's magic, with both sides fighting for a winner.
Gaston Ramirez looked to curl in a winner, four minutes before time, as Adrian was left in no mans land but the effort went just wide of the post.
Hammers had one last throw of the dice, as Payet curled a free-kick in which was connected on by Victor Valdes and the chance passed them by.