Andorra — who had not won in 51 competitive fixtures since beating Macedonia in October 2004 — had taken a shock lead early in the qualifying Group B encounter in Andorra la Vella as Ildefons Lima converted a sixth-minute penalty after Neil Taylor pulled back Ivan Lorenzo.
It was Lima’s eighth international goal and ended an Andorran goal drought in competitive matches stretching back 18 games.
The Welsh found it difficult coping with the physical game of their hosts but Bale finally got them on level terms with a header in the 22nd minute.
However, if the Welsh fans thought that would ease their side’s nerves and a goal glut would ensue they were to be disappointed as they failed to convert their chances.
Manager Chris Coleman was booed off at half-time by the 1500 or so Welsh supporters who had travelled to the Pyrenees for the game and with 10 minutes remaining and the sides all square there was every chance of a repeat performance at the final whistle.
Bale, though, spared him that as he scored with a superb free-kick to give the visitors a scarcely deserved victory.
The hardly inauspicious start to their campaign doesn’t augur well with a group consisting of World Cup quarter-finalists Belgium, Israel, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Cyprus, who beat the Bosnians 2-1 away on Tuesday.