After easing through his last three fights on cruise control, Mayweather was made to work by the industrious Argentine who bullied and harassed Floyd on the ropes from the get-go.
Ultimately, Mayweather's supreme counter-boxing shone through as he picked his shots for the majority of the contest and enjoyed a slender but decisive margin in an otherwise engrossing, back-and-forth contest.
It was also far more of a roughhouse brawl than many Mayweather fans will be used to seeing, with the American suffering a rare laceration when he was cut in the fourth round by an accidental clash of heads.
Mayweather was none too pleased when judge CJ Ross inexplicably scored his one-sided win over Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez a draw, but when the first judges' scorecard came through as 114-114 he had little complaint this time around.
Indeed, when the second and third judges' scorecards came through as 117-111 and 116-112 for a majority decision, there was legitimate suspense as to the winner of the bout until Mayweather's name was declared.
This writer scored the bout 115-113 for Mayweather, as did Kevin Iole of Eurosport's Stateside sister website Yahoo Sports.
Both fighters felt they had done enough to win the rousing main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, leaving everyone involved happy to consider a rematch in September.
"If the fans want to see us fight again I'll do it again. This was not my last fight," said 'Money'.
Mayweather continued: "I describe this as a tough competitive fight. It's what the fans wanted to see. Normally I box and move, box and move but this was a brawl."
The victor, now 46-0 after making a colourful entrance involving musicians Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber as well as a host of circus clowns, added: "The fans wanted an exciting fight so I wanted to stand there and give him a fight. Maidana's a very good fighter and it was one of my toughest fights.
"The cut was from an accidental headbutt but for two rounds I could not see. A true champion can make adjustments to anything and that's what I did when he was boxing well."
Maidana remained adamant after the bout that he had done enough to win, and said through an interpreter: "I felt like I won the fight. Floyd did not fight like a man like I expected him to.
"He did dominate some rounds but I dominated the majority.
"Rematch? It should be me who grants him a rematch because I won the fight! I am not scared of Mayweather. Why not have a rematch?"
A second bout would not only provoke interest after the all-action nature of this first meeting between the two, but would prove convenient for a champion who is struggling to find interesting enough challengers after a near two-decade long unbeaten career.
Amir Khan, who outclassed Luis Collazo in the chief support bout, is one option in the future for Mayweather but is unlikely to be available for September due to his commitment to Ramadan.