Cavendish was forced to open up a long sprint to the line after first being put under pressure by Elia Viviani (Sky) and then Andrea Guardini (Astana).
Mark Cavendish takes a narrow victory in the bunch sprint on stage one of the 2015 Dubai Tour
Despite a photo-finish with Guardini, Cavendish prevailed, securing his second victory of the 2015 season after winning the final stage of the Tour de San Luis in January.
Cavendish now goes into the second stage of the race in the blue leader’s jersey.
The 2015 Dubai Tour concludes on Saturday, February 7. The race consists of four stages, each starting from the Dubai International Marine Club. It is the first even in the UCI Asia Tour, and is closely followed by the Tour of Qatar and Tour of Oman.
John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) are favourites for the race, which tends to reward riders who can make it over some punchy climbs before coming out of top of a bunch sprint.