It was a draw that neither player wanted but it was Federer who was sent packing early and not an inspired Murray who took full advantage of rustiness in the Swiss master's game and ultimately capitalised on his own outstanding serving.
Remarkably he denied the man who has made this tournament his own by taking the title four times in the last five years a single break point in a battle which lasted just short of two hours and that was the most pleasing aspect when Murray analysed the reasons behind such a famous success.
"I don't know how Roger felt he played, but in terms of my own performance and my serve that was pretty special day," said a delighted Murray.
"To beat Federer in a three-set match and not have a break point against you is probably something that has not happened to him for a long time. That is something I'm really happy with because I have worked on my serve a lot and it held up in the pressure situations out there.
A dejected Federer who bemoaned the failure of his normally punishing forehand reflected: "One of the big guys had to go out tonight and unfortunately it was me.
"I definitely could have played much better tennis. But you have to give credit to the guy who beats you. Usually I come through those matches but you are not going to beat him without a forehand."
It looked like Federer was going to do what he does so often against challengers to his world dominance squeeze through when not at his best. Murray had him on the rack in the first set tie break but played three loose points in succession to squander a 5-2 lead and Federer punished him by snatching an ill-deserved lead.
The British No 1 refused to condemn himself for that lapse and instead set about the task of turning the match around which he did by accepting the first break point of the encounter midway through the second set to draw level.
He had chances to break in the opening game of the decider before doing so in the fifth game to put him on the brink of victory. When the time came to serve for the match he did so with relish, earning three match points with his 10th ace and accepting the first of them by forcing another error from his opponent's rusty forehand.
There were no wild celebrations from the British No 1 in response to the ecstatic cheering of the expats in a packed 7,000 crowd. He put the low key handshake at the net to his enormous respect for his opponent.
"Obviously I am delighted to have won the match. Just having the chance to play against Roger is something special because I have grown up in Dunblane admiring him. I didn't want to get too emotional because it is only the start of the tournament.
"I had some butterflies out there but it wasn't so much nerves, more about being excited. I have known since Saturday that I was going to play him and I was really looking forward to the match.
Murray joins Rafael Nadal, the second seed here and Guillermo Canas as the only active players to have a positive head-to-head record against Federer and he puts the key down to a combination of belief and patience.
"The most important thing is just to believe that you can win the match against him. He's obviously a special player and possibly the greatest player of all time. Possibly some guys try to play too well against him.
"It is really important to stay patient against him and not make rash decisions early in the match. If he is playing his best he can start hitting winners all over the court. You really do need to try to stay positive and stay focused because it is really easy to get down on yourself when facing him."
He went on to make ironic, self-mocking references to previous criticism of his tendency to be mentally weak in pressurised situations and remarked: "I think I showed tonight that that was not going to be an issue. That is something that I have worked on."
Murray has now opened up the top half of the draw in this star-studded tournament which has attracted the world's top seven players.
He next meets the Spaniard Fernando Verdasco tomorrow and is not taking anything for granted on the way to what is a probable quarter-final against Nikolay Davydenko, the fifth-ranked Russian whom he defeated on the way to winning the Doha title in January.
"Verdasco is going to be a tough match for me," Murray warned. He is a talented player - a leftie which makes it difficult for me.