Full-back Leigh Halfpenny’s relentless goalkicking saw off Millennium Stadium visitors South Africa.
The Toulon full-back missed just one shot at goal, ensuring that Wales ended a dismal run of 22 successive defeats against the Springboks, New Zealand and Australia.
Pat Lambie booted two penalties for South Africa, but Wales were deserved winners following a display built on the set-piece power of their pack.
Captain Warburton led from the front, helping to inspire only a second victory in 108 years over South Africa, and Wales’ first against the Springboks, New Zealand and Australia since November 2008.
“It does not feel like a monkey off your back now,” Warburton said.
“It has always felt as if we have been able to achieve a win against one of these three sides, and that’s why I don’t feel surprised that we have won.
“I always thought it was a matter of when, not if, and I never doubted the ability of our team.”
Warburton is set to win his 50th cap when Wales kick off their RBS 6 Nations campaign against Millennium Stadium visitors England on February 6, and he believes the South Africa win could prove to be a critical result.
“This has to be the standard now to kick on. We don’t want this to be once in a blue moon and celebrate it like we have won the World Cup.
“If we want to be world beaters, which we want to do, and win the World Cup, this has to be the standard we have to set year in year out, and we need to kick on.”
Scorers for Wales: Pens: Halfpenny 4.
Scorers for South Africa: Pens: Lambie 2.
WALES: Halfpenny, Cuthbert, J. Davies, Roberts, L. Williams, Biggar, Webb, Jenkins, Baldwin, Lee, Ball, A. Jones, Lydiate, Warburton, Faletau.
Replacements: S. Williams for Halfpenny (67). Not Used: E. Phillips, Jarvis, R. Jones, Charteris, King, M. Phillips, Priestland.
SOUTH AFRICA: Pens: Lambie 2. South Africa: le Roux, Hendricks, Serfontein, de Villiers, Mvovo, Lambie, Reinach, Mtawarira, B. du Plessis, Oosthuizen, Etzebeth, Matfield, Coetzee, Mohoje, Vermeulen.
Replacements: Hougaard for Lambie (58), Nyakane for Mtawarira (54), Strauss for B. du Plessis (58), Redelinghuys for Oosthuizen (70), de Jager for Etzebeth (69), Carr for Mohoje (54).
Ref: John Lacey (Ireland).