The Scot had won 11 matches in a row going into Sunday's showpiece, but two of his three defeats in the last four months had come against the world number two who had also beaten him five times in a row.
And Murray's horror run looked set to continue when he dropped the first set, but he found the rhythm that helped him win in Thailand a week ago and only allowed Nadal to win two more games as he ran out a 3-6 6-2 6-0 winner.
As a result, Murray was able to lift his 20th career title and improve his chances of toppling Roger Federer as the world number three before the season is out.
The way he is playing at the moment suggests he would have beaten Nadal in the semi-finals of Wimbledon and the US Open had he have showed such form back then, but normal service seemed to be the order of the day when Nadal broke Murray early in the first set.
Murray's serve was shaky throughout the set, although Nadal failed to cash in and took it with just the one break.
Something happened to Murray during the end-of-set break, though, and he left his chair for the second seemingly a different player.
After adjusting some strapping on his ankle he began to dominate Nadal from the baseline and move him around, breaking through in the fourth game of the set.
Nadal, looking for a first hard court title since he won this event a year ago, then earned himself three break points at 0-40 but three aces from Murray saw him off and he then broke again to take the set and level the match.
What happened in the third set was very unlike Nadal, though, with the Majorcan almost conceding that Murray was headed for the victory as shot after shot found the corners and the baseline.
Murray broke three times to whitewash Nadal in the final set, before heading off court to prepare for the doubles final with brother Jamie.
"I played some great tennis, especially in the third set," Murray told www.atpworldtour.com afterwards.
"There was a lot of close games towards the end of the first set and beginning of the second and I managed to get the momentum and didn't give him many chances after that.
"For sure in the third set it was some of the best tennis I've played against him. I was very consistent, didn't make too many mistakes and kept a cool head in the important moments."
Nadal, for so long dominant over Murray, also paid tribute to his opponent.
"He played unbelievable," the Spaniard said. "He didn't make any mistakes in the third set and played very aggressive. When you are playing someone at that level, the only way is to try and get more free points on serve. For me it was impossible today because his return was very impressive."
Murray capped a memorable fortnight, during which he also won the Thailand Open, by lifting the doubles trophy with brother Jamie Murray.
The Scot duo beat Frantisek Cermak and Filip Polasek 6-1 6-4 in just under an hour to win the title.