Rutte got a last-minute boost from a diplomatic row with Turkey, which allowed him to take a well-timed tough line on a majority Muslim country during an election campaign in which immigration and integration have been key issues.
Dutch proportional representation means up to 15 parties could win a parliamentary seat and it could take months for Rutte to build a coalition.
Rutte had called the vote a European quarter-final, before a French semi-final and German final, and warned voters that a Wilders victory would be "the wrong sort of populism winning the day".
The far-right Marine Le Pen is set to make the second-round run-off of France's presidential election in May, while in September's federal election in Germany, the right-wing, euroskeptic Alternative for Germany is likely to enter the national parliament for the first time.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: Reuters