Cardiff captain Mark Hudson struck in injury time to kill off battling Championship newcomers Huddersfield's challenge at Cardiff City Stadium.
The visitors seemed destined to draw on their return to the league after a 12-year absence.
But Hudson's low, hard, close-range shot ended the Terriers' hopes.
Cardiff's win came after a summer dominated by rebranding from blue to red and the recent arrival of Craig Bellamy.
But as well as Hudson's opportunism, the hosts had another solid servant in goalkeeper David Marshall to thank for keeping Simon Grayson's side at bay.
Marshall won the man-of-the-match award after keeping a clean sheet despite the best efforts of Oliver Norwood, Scott Arfield and Keith Southern.
Moments before Hudson hit home, Marshall reacted superbly to deflect Arfield's powerful 20-yard shot.
However, the home 'keeper did not have to contend with Scottish striker striker Jordan Rhodes, who was a late withdrawal because of injury, having been the subject of a
transfer bid by Blackburn in the build-up.
Cardiff welcomed back Kevin McNaughton, Hudson, Ben Turner and Andrew Taylor after the quartet missed their midweek League Cup defeat at Northampton through injury.
Eight players also return after being on international duty, including new signing from Liverpool Bellamy and Heidar Helguson was the only survivor from Wednesday's setback.
The visitors were also without winger Danny Ward (ankle) while Cardiff's South Korean summer signing Kim Bo-Kyung was also unavailable as he arranges a work permit.
Having reached the second tier via the play-offs, Huddersfield could have been forgiven for succumbing early on to a side that has been in the Championship for 10 years and been promotion candidates for the last three seasons.
But Cardiff were rarely able to bring Bellamy and Whittingham's influence to bear, relying on long balls to Helguson, which Huddersfield were equal to.
Midway through the second period visiting keeper Alex Smithies deflected the Jordan Mutch's shot into Helguson's path, but with a simple tap-in to complete he was denied by Peter Clarke's alert intervention.
At the death, a deflection off substitute Joe Mason's shoulder gave Hudson the chance to display his killer instinct and Huddersfield did not have enough time to respond.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay:
"It was a tough game.
"They frustrated us, got everyone behind the ball and tried to break on the counter and made a couple of chances of their own and we had to make sure David Marshall was on his toes with those.
"But I thought we were brave, brave on the ball to keep going, to keep probing and to keep trying to find those spaces.
"And I think near the end we had two or three chances that nearly were knocking at the door and eventually we got the break."
- 01 Marshall
- 02 McNaughton
- 03 Taylor
- 05 Hudson
- 06 Turner
- 07 Whittingham Booked
- 08 Cowie (Mason - 78' )
- 17 Gunnarsson
- 18 Mutch (Kiss - 85' )
- 22 Helguson
- 39 Bellamy
- 32 Lewis
- 04 Kiss
- 11 Conway
- 23 Blake
- 09 Velikonja
- 10 Earnshaw
- 20 Mason
- 01 Smithies
- 03 Dixon
- 05 P Clarke
- 32 Hunt
- 33 Lynch
- 04 Norwood
- 08 Clayton Booked
- 16 Arfield (Gerrard - 90' Booked )
- 24 Southern Booked
- 07 Scannell (Spencer - 90' )
- 09 Novak
- 13 Bennett
- 02 Woods
- 06 Gerrard
- 22 Robinson
- 19 Lee
- 27 Higginbotham
- 30 Spencer