The former world No 1, making his first appearance at the European Open in Antwerp, beat Belgian wild card Kimmer Coppejans 6-4, 7-6 (4).
Murray was given a decent work-out by the world No 158, who has yet to win a match on the Tour. The Scot’s serve remains rusty and, after racing into a 3-0 lead, he was broken back courtesy of three double faults. It proved a minor blip, Murray breaking in the tenth game to take the first set in 40 minutes.
Yet two more breaks of the Murray serve meant he was dragged the distance in the second. But he got over the line after a tie-break, wrapping up victory in an hour and 44 minutes to reach the last 16.
It was the two-time Wimbledon champion’s first victory on European soil since beating Stan Wawrinka at Eastbourne in June 2018. Antwerp is likely to be Murray’s last tournament of the year, with the possible exception of the Davis Cup next month.
He will face eighth seed Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay or Bolivian Hugo Dellien in the last 16.
Earlier Cameron Norrie was beaten by Feliciano Lopez.
Veteran Spaniard Lopez claimed the only break of serve in the fifth game of the second set and went on to record a 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory after an hour and 29 minutes.
Despite the defeat, Norrie will become the British No 2 on Monday behind Dan Evans, with defending champion Kyle Edmund set to drop outside the top 70 after falling in qualifying.
Seventh seed Jan-Lennard Struff was the top-ranked player in action yesterday, the German beating Gregoire Barrere of France 6-2, 6-1.
At the Kremlin Cup in Moscow home favourite Andrey Rublev, the sixth seed, secured a break of serve in the final game to beat Alexander Bublik 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 and reach the last 16.
Eighth seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia sent another Russian packing, sinking Artem Dubrivnyy 6-1, 7-5.
Meanwhile, top seed Elise Mertens wasted little time in reaching the last 16 of the Luxembourg Open.
The 23-year-old Belgian swept past qualifier Bibiane Schoofs of Holland 6-0, 6-3.
Monica Niculescu, the champion in 2016, was handed an easy route through after fourth seed Alison Van Uytvanck retired injured just six games into the first set.
Third seed Elena Rybakina beat Chloe Paquet in straight sets but Fiona Ferro, the seventh seed, won just one game as she tumbled out against Monica Puig.
Sixth seed Camila Giorgi won the first set to love but still lost in three to Andrea Petkovic.