Despite a dominant start, it was a relieved Muguruza that eventually closed out a 6-2, 7-6(5) victory after the best part of two hours on court. In the third round she will face either Wang Yafan or Wuhan champion Petra Kvitova.
Since winning the French Open in June, the Spaniard has struggled for form and against Putintseva delivered another unpredictable performance. In the second set she twice served for the match, but ultimately had to come through a tense tie-break, belatedly securing her progress when Putintseva hooked a forehand into the tramlines.
"I'm very happy I could close the match in the tie-break because obviously it was getting tougher and tougher. I think she was getting into the match a little bit more," Muguruza said. "I think just tie-breaks are moments where, you know, it's delicate. You only have, like, seven points kind of to win. You feel a bit more nervous and more tense."
The tension was evident when the No.2 seed netted a routine forehand which would have given her a 3-1 lead. It would not be the last puzzling miss, but luckily for Muguruza these were outnumbered by some typically impressive shotmaking. A rasping forehand down the line brought her to match point, and while she erred on the first Putintseva's resistance could not last.
"I really focused on me. I know she's a fighter. She's going to go out there and fight every point," Muguruza said. "I thought, okay, I know she's going to be there, she's going to try to give me the hardest match, but let's focus on me. I have the control of the match."
Should Kvitova advance, she will face a very different challenge in the next round. In Wuhan, the Czech looked back to her best, dismantling Simona Halep, then Dominika Cibulkova, en route to the title.
"I think we come from different bases of game. I'm from Spain. It's completely different; I can be aggressive sometimes, sometimes I can reduce a little bit. I can play with that. I think she's very aggressive and that's it. But I think we both go for our shots. I want to have the control. She wants to have the control. So it's like a fight there."
Elsewhere there were early wins for Karolina Pliskova, Daria Gavrilova and Elina Svitolina. No.5 seed Pliskova fought back to see off fellow Czech Lucie Safarova, 6-7(7), 6-1, 6-4, while Gavrilova defeated Christina McHale, 6-4, 6-4, and Svitolina saw off Tatjana Maria, 6-2, 6-2.