Following a dazzling opening ceremony, the trans-Tasman rivalry roared into gear, but the fans inside the Olympic Stadium had to wait until the 12th minute for their first real chance when Jason Spagnuolo fired a shot into the arms of Richard Gillespie.
That set the tone for the rest of the half, with the Waitakere defence standing firm in the face of severe pressure from the runners-up of this year's AFC Champions League. On several occasions Gillespie was called into action and produced his finest save of the first half in the 19th minute, tipping Scott Jamieson's shot around his far post.
Indeed, it was his opposite number, Eugene Galekovic, who was left red-faced in the 34 minute when he failed to claim with a Waitakere free-kick under pressure from Paul Seaman. Instead he dropped the ball at the midfielder's feet, and Seaman stabbed the ball home from close range.
The goal prompted scenes of wild celebration from the Waitakere bench, but their lead lasted for just five minutes. Daniel Mullen was left unmarked inside the box and he powered a header past Gillespie from Paul Reid's precise corner.
Although the scores were level at half-time, Adelaide's nine attempts on goal to Waitakere's one was a fair reflection of the Australians' territorial dominance.
It was more of the same at the beginning of the second half, with Adelaide's corner count breaking into double figures. But it was from a piece of open play that they almost took the lead, Fabian Barbiero firing wide from six yards, with just the keeper to beat.
After that chance, Waitakere enjoyed one of their best spells of the game, forcing Adelaide into their own half, but struggled to create any meaningful chances.
Scott Jamieson had a free kick which went narrowly wide, and with the match seemingly heading for extra time, Adelaide captain Travis Dodd glanced the ball past Gillespie from Paul Reid's inswinging free kick.
It proved to be enough to send the Australians through to the next round and a rematch against Gamba Osaka, their conquerors in the AFC Champions League final, on Sunday.