Both men raised their arms claiming victory at the final bell but neither could claim any certainty about the result, despite Woods being given the decision by generous scores of 117-111, 118-112 and 116-112 to make a successful - if somewhat fraught - first defence.
Woods won the vacant IBF belt in his fourth title challenge with a stoppage of the fancied American Rico Hoye in March. And after Friday's tough encounter he was a relieved man.
"I am glad to have got Gonzalez out of the way. He is a fighter not many people want to fight," said Woods. "For the first three or four rounds I felt it was one of those nights where I could not really get anything off.
"I was thinking from the fourth or fifth round, 'I am going to have to dig in here', which I did. I felt from the sixth I was taking the fight away from him. It felt like an ugly fight but I felt in control, and I am glad it's out of the way.
"He was very tough. He kept banging body shots in but I felt in control and he never caught me with a head shot. I feel so strong. That guy is supposed to be the toughest and strongest light-heavy in the world but I felt stronger than him," Woods added.
"It's the first time I have felt like a champion. Since I won the world title, everyone has been saying to me, 'Has it changed you? What does it feel like now?' When I won the world title it felt fantastic with the belt around me, but I didn't feel as though anything had changed. I didn't feel any different.
"I am not just one of these guys who wins it and loses it. I have won it now and I have defended it and I can get it engraved now."
Gonzalez showed no signs of being intimidated as he walked the champion down from the opening bell, coming forward as Woods attempted to find his range.
Woods continued to try to outbox the challenger, and wobbled the Mexican with a left uppercut early in the second, yet Gonzalez was still keen to attack.
In the middle rounds Woods began to produce more accuracy yet found himself soaking up strong counters with increasing regularity, though Gonzalez began to adopt a less gung-ho approach. As the fight wore on Woods was forced to up his work-rate as Gonzalez retained his composure.
As Gonzalez exerted more caution Woods continued to up the tempo, and caught the game Mexican with increasing regularity. A frantic 10th round saw Woods catch the challenger with short bursts but fail to capitalise on his success as Gonzalez absorbed everything he had.
Meanwhile, Joe Calzaghe has Woods in his sights. "I would love to fight him [Woods], I just hope he would take the fight. You don't want him fighting Roy Jones again - who cares? Roy Jones smashed him to pieces. Glen Johnson beat him twice.
"So step down a bit and try and beat someone in your own country. But I don't think he wants the fight, I think he is scared and knows he is going to get knocked out.
"He has won the title and now he wants easy defences. He has definitely improved from his super-middleweight days, but I am 100 per cent confident."
Calzaghe has grown increasingly frustrated with the low level of publicity he has been afforded during his eight years as champion, in contrast with some of his British boxing contemporaries. Calzaghe directed his ire towards Ricky Hatton, who beat Kostya Tszyu in June to claim the IBF light-welterweight title.
Branding the media attention afforded that contest as "a joke", Calzaghe said: "As far as I am concerned I am a far better fighter than Hatton. Ricky had a good win over Tszyu but he fought a guy who was at the tail-end of his career and had fought once in three years."Reuse content