Chris Coleman tipped Gareth Bale to become Wales’ greatest-ever scorer after he helped swot aside Moldova with a clinical brace.
Coleman’s Wales side were given a rousing reception back in Cardiff on home soil after their heroics at the Euros, where they made the last four.
Their homecoming threatened to fall flat as lowly Moldova proved stubborn resistance early on.
But victory was never in doubt once the hosts made a belated breakthrough in the 38 minute after Sam Vokes’ header from Bale’s brilliant cross.
Joe Allen also netted before the break to put Wales in complete control in their opening fixture as they bid to reach Russia.
Bale got on the scoresheet himself in the 50 minute after a defensive error.
The Real Madrid ace, by now wearing the armband after Ashley Williams was subbed, rounded off an emphatic win with a stoppage time penalty after being felled.
His calm conversion takes his tally of international goals to 24 in 62 caps. His brace moves him above Dean Saunders, Ivor Allchurch and Trevor Ford in the all-time standings to second – just four behind Wales record-holder Ian Rush on 28.
The emphatic victory leaves Wales top of Group D ahead of their trip to Austria next month. Wales started brightly against the minnows, ranked 165 in the FIFA world rankings.