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."
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The final whistle is blown by the referee.90:00 +4:52
Craig Bellamy takes the direct free kick.90:00 +4:52 Booking
Booking Anthony Gerrard is shown a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.90:00 +4:40
Anthony Gerrard gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Filip Kiss.90:00 +3:53 Substitution
Substitution James Spencer on for Sean Scannell.90:00 +3:40
Adam Clayton has an effort at goal from just outside the penalty box which goes wide of the left-hand post.90:00 +3:13
Unfair challenge on Peter Clarke by Filip Kiss results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Alex Smithies.90:00 +1:51 Substitution
Substitution Anthony Gerrard is brought on as a substitute for Scott Arfield.90:00 +0:56
Assist by Aron Gunnarsson.90:00 +0:56 Goal scored
Goal! - Mark Hudson - Cardiff 1 - 0 Huddersfld Goal scored by Mark Hudson from close range to the bottom right corner of the goal. Cardiff 1-0 Huddersfield.90:00 +0:23
Corner taken by Craig Bellamy from the left by-line to the near post, clearance made by Lee Novak.88:35
Joe Mason produces a left-footed shot from inside the area that goes over the bar.85:46
Peter Whittingham takes the inswinging corner, Unfair challenge on Joel Lynch by Andrew Taylor results in a free kick. Alex Smithies takes the direct free kick.84:36 Substitution
Substitution Filip Kiss on for Jordon Mutch.83:08
Effort on goal by Scott Arfield from just inside the area clears the bar.82:49
Inswinging corner taken by Oliver Norwood.82:34
Shot from 18 yards from Scott Arfield. Save made by David Marshall.78:57
Heidar Helguson takes a shot. Alex Smithies makes a comfortable save.77:56 Substitution
Substitution Peter Whittingham leaves the field to be replaced by Joe Mason.77:55 Substitution
Substitution Joe Mason replaces Don Cowie.
Oliver Norwood takes the inswinging corner, save made by David Marshall.75:29
Lee Novak takes a shot. Blocked by Mark Hudson.74:00
Free kick awarded for a foul by Scott Arfield on Andrew Taylor. Peter Whittingham crosses the ball, Header by Andrew Taylor from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the target.72:55
Adam Clayton crosses the ball from the free kick right-footed from right channel, David Marshall fouled by Lee Novak, the ref awards a free kick. David Marshall restarts play with the free kick.72:55 Booking
Booking Booking for Peter Whittingham for unsporting behaviour.72:45
Peter Whittingham gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Scott Arfield.71:00
Corner taken left-footed by Peter Whittingham from the right by-line, save made by Alex Smithies.70:48
Kevin McNaughton takes a shot from 18 yards. Brilliant save by Alex Smithies.67:56
Foul by Aron Gunnarsson on Sean Scannell, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Alex Smithies.64:58
Scott Arfield takes the chance to get an effort at goal. Blocked by Mark Hudson.63:00
Jordon Mutch takes a shot from 20 yards. Save by Alex Smithies.60:39
Jack Hunt produces a left-footed shot from just outside the area that goes harmlessly over the target.57:32
David Marshall takes the free kick.57:32 Booking
Booking Keith Southern booked.57:13
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Peter Whittingham by Keith Southern.55:14
Aron Gunnarsson concedes a free kick for a foul on Keith Southern. Free kick taken by Peter Clarke.53:59
Craig Bellamy takes the chance to get an effort at goal. Save by Alex Smithies.53:16
Inswinging corner taken by Peter Whittingham, clearance by Peter Clarke.51:59
David Marshall restarts play with the free kick.51:59 Booking
Booking Adam Clayton goes into the referee's book.51:44
Adam Clayton challenges Jordon Mutch unfairly and gives away a free kick.50:38
Peter Whittingham fouled by Lee Novak, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Andrew Taylor.49:44
Peter Clarke is ruled offside. David Marshall restarts play with the free kick.48:58
Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Oliver Norwood from the right by-line.48:18
Foul by Mark Hudson on Lee Novak, free kick awarded. Free kick crossed right-footed by Oliver Norwood from left channel, Jordon Mutch manages to make a clearance.47:42
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Keith Southern by Kevin McNaughton. Free kick taken by Alex Smithies.45:01
The second half kicks off.45:00 +1:07 Half time
Half Time The whistle is blown to end the first half.44:56
Lee Novak produces a shot from deep inside the penalty area which goes wide of the left-hand post.43:45
Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Peter Whittingham, Mark Hudson has a headed effort at goal from close range which goes wide of the left-hand upright.43:29
Heidar Helguson takes a shot.42:51
Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Craig Bellamy from the left by-line.39:25
Jack Hunt takes a shot from just inside the penalty box which clears the crossbar.39:06
Short corner taken by Oliver Norwood from the right by-line.38:48
Oliver Norwood takes the chance to get an effort at goal. Save made by David Marshall.36:55
The referee blows for offside. Alex Smithies takes the free kick.34:08
Foul by Heidar Helguson on Joel Lynch, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Alex Smithies.32:32
Effort on goal by Lee Novak from just inside the area clears the crossbar.31:12
Paul Dixon gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Jordon Mutch. Mark Hudson restarts play with the free kick.30:27
Free kick awarded for a foul by Ben Turner on Lee Novak. Peter Clarke restarts play with the free kick.26:48
Sean Scannell challenges Kevin McNaughton unfairly and gives away a free kick. David Marshall takes the free kick.24:24
The assistant referee signals for offside against Heidar Helguson. Indirect free kick taken by Alex Smithies.23:56
Inswinging corner taken by Don Cowie from the left by-line, clearance made by Jack Hunt.20:08
Drilled right-footed shot by Peter Whittingham. Peter Clarke gets a block in. Effort on goal by Jordon Mutch from just inside the area clears the crossbar.18:48
The assistant referee flags for offside against Lee Novak. David Marshall takes the indirect free kick.12:08
Oliver Norwood takes a shot from 30 yards. David Marshall makes a fantastic save.11:44
Ben Turner gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Lee Novak. Adam Clayton takes the direct free kick.9:49
Heidar Helguson challenges Peter Clarke unfairly and gives away a free kick. Alex Smithies takes the free kick.7:21
Shot from 12 yards from Scott Arfield. Save made by David Marshall.6:53
Mark Hudson has a headed effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the left of the target.4:45
The official flags Lee Novak offside. Indirect free kick taken by David Marshall.2:03
Don Cowie has an effort at goal from outside the box which misses left.0:00
The referee gets the game underway.
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