The 32-year-old Sri Lankan was the world's leading wicket-taker with 532 scalps till a shoulder surgery in August sidelined him for the rest of the year and allowed Warne, 35, to usurp the record on the tour of India in October.
Muralitharan, cleared to play by his doctors and the International Cricket Council (ICC) following a review of his bowling action, is expected to spearhead Sri Lanka's attack during the two Tests in New Zealand in January.
Warne, who had a 20-wicket advantage going into Australia's three-Test home series against Pakistan, will be looking over his shoulder as the off-spinner returns to his prolific wicket-taking ways.
By the end of the year, Muralitharan may well regain the record. Among Sri Lanka's Test engagements in 2005 is a series against cricket's favourite whipping boys from Bangladesh.
Warne knows he is fighting a losing battle.
"Murali is bound to overtake me sooner or later," the blond leg-spinner said in a recent interview. "But at least I've got the opportunity to say I was the world record holder."
Muralitharan can befuddle batsmen even on a glasstop. He has taken five wickets in an innings 44 times and 10 wickets in a Test on 13 occasions. Both feats remain unmatched in the history of the game.
The Sri Lankan's 532 wickets came in 91 Tests. Warne needed 114 matches to overtake that record.
Muralitharan could return an even more devastating bowler following the ICC's decision to overturn the ban on his away-going delivery - the 'doosra' (second one) - a term first made popular by Pakistani off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq.
If the ICC agrees next February to allow bowlers to flex their arms by up to 15 degrees, Muralitharan will not have to worry about umpires, officials and fans questioning his action.
"I have always been at peace with myself because I knew I was not doing anything wrong," said Murali.
"It is the others who kept raising doubts about my action. The more they questioned, the stronger I became. Now, hopefully, it is all settled."
A new book 'Chuckers', written by Adelaide Oval museum curator Bernand Whimpress, quotes conversations between Don Bradman and his close friend Tom Thompson in which the legendary Australian batsmen takes a swipe at umpire Darrell Hair for calling Muralitharan for throwing in 1995.
"I believe Hair's action - in one over - took the development of world cricket back by 10 years," the book quotes Bradman as telling Thompson.
"For me, this was the worst example of umpiring that I have witnessed, and against everything the game stands for. It was technically impossible of umpire Hair to call Murali from the bowler's end. Why was his eye not on the foot-fall and crease?
"Clearly Murali does not throw the ball."
One of the highlights of the year gone by was the showdown between Warne and Muralitharan during Australia's tour of Sri Lanka in March.
The honours were even. Muralitharan claimed 28 wickets in three Tests against Warne's 26 but world champions Australia blanked the hosts 3-0.
The duo could not renew battle when Sri Lanka returned the visit in July because Muralitharan withdrew from the tour reportedly angry over Australian Prime Minister John Howard's comments calling him a "chucker."
Warne and Muralitharan will not play against each other in the new year. But their individual quest for the world record will be keenly followed by cricket fans around the world.