Last year's Wimbledon runner-up Vera Zvonareva was made to work hard by American youngster Alison Riske in her first-round encounter before battling through 6-0 3-6 6-3.
The Russian, seeded second, looked on course for an easy success after polishing off the first set without dropping a game but her opponent battled back to level the match.
In a hard-fought decider, Zvonareva piled on the pressure in the eighth game to gain the crucial break before confidently serving out the victory to set up a second-round meeting with fellow Russian Elena Vesnina, who beat Laura Pous-Tio of Spain in straight sets.
Zvonareva, who also reached the final at the US Open in a superb 2010, only needed 25 minutes to win the first set as her placement and consistency were simply too much for Riske.
But the 20-year-old, whose seven wins on the WTA Tour have all come at the AEGON Classic in Birmingham, dug in to hold serve for the first time at the start of the second set, and from there used the momentum to gain the upper hand.
Suddenly it was Zvonareva who was making the mistakes off the ground and, after breaking in the sixth game, Riske had little trouble taking the set.
Riske was broken at the start of the decider but her approach had earned her many fans on Court One and she responded impressively to level at 2-2.
She then had a chance for a second consecutive break but she could not take it, and that would prove to be her last opportunity.
Zvonareva claimed the crucial break in the eighth game before serving out the victory.
Zvonareva admitted she had been severely tested by an opponent ranked 115th in the world but she was pleased with the way she turned things around.
"I'm really happy I was able to pull it off in the end," said the 26-year-old. "She played some good tennis but I tried to stay focused. I had some ups and downs but I'm really happy.
"I lost my concentration for a bit but I always fight for every point and I was able to pick it up in the third set."