The Swiss rider was a comfortable winner at the end of the 199km trip from Brioude to Saint-Vallier that featured six second or third category climbs before the final category one ascent of the Cote de la Sizeranne.
Astana's Maxim Iglinsky and Peter Velits of Omega Pharma-Quick Step followed the Orica GreenEdge rider over the time with Garmin-Sharp's Andrew Talasnky coming home sixth to retain the overall lead.
Javier Moreno (Movistar), Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Johan Tschopp (IAM) attacked before the cat 2 Cote de Lachaud, which commenced after just 6.7km, and were soon joined by Europcar's Thomas Voeckler.
Hubert Dupont (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Romain Sicard (Euskatel), Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) and Warren Barguil (Argos-Shimano) bridged the gap and the seven leaders had a 3:35 lead after 56km.
But that lead was down to one minute with 32km remaining and the escape group began to splinter with Voeckler finally swallowed up with 15km remaining just before the ascent of the Côte de la Sizeranne.
The peloton split dramatically on the final climb, which peaked just 9km from the finish and had an average gradient of 6.6%, but no rider was able to make a decisive move on the descending finish into Saint-Vallier.
It meant 37 riders came to the line to contest the finish and it was Albasini who delivered the killer burst to record his first win since last year's Tour of Switzerland.
“I actually wasn’t sure of my condition when I came here,” admitted Albasini.
“I was feeling good, but we couldn’t race Lugano and my last race before that was three weeks ago last Wednesday. Without racing, it’s hard to understand what’s going on with your body. I’m super happy to start the season with an early, important win. I’m a bit surprised, too.
“It’s even nicer to win on a day when we also won with [Matt] Goss in Tirreno,” Albasini added. “It’s really perfect. It’s important to keep the wins going like we did last year.”
Young American Talasnky was in close attention and he now leads on GC by three seconds from Astana's Andriy Grivko with Velits and OPQS tem-mate Sylvain Chavanel a further second back.