It was the English boxer's sixth defence of his IBF title, third of the WBA and first of the WBO, while the Russian Povetkin (34-2, 24 KOs) suffered his second professional defeat, first by stoppage.
Against Fury - or at least the version of Fury who took the three belts from Wladimir Klitschko which Joshua now holds - there could come a salutary boxing lesson.
Joshua was rocked by Povetkin, the 2004 Olympic champion, in the first round.
WBC champion Wilder takes on Briton Fury on 1 December. If Fury wins, it's not what we want because Wilder will have a rematch clause.
He will now return to Wembley in April to face a yet to be named opponent, with Wilder, Fury and Dillian Whyte all believed to be in the frame.
But Povetkin dominated his younger opponent with his strong inside work and punching power. Two failed doping tests in 2016 cost Povetkin a crack at Wilder, but he looked unsafe when he knocked out Joshua's fellow Briton David Price in March.
Povetkin's career has been marred by failed drug tests, but after finishing up a drug suspension past year, Povetkin returned to form, knocking out David Price in his last fight to become the mandatory challenger to Joshua's title.
Povetkin was sharp early in the second round before Joshua tried to establish some authority behind single jabs.
And a shot to the nose left Joshua with heavy bleeding and made it tough to breathe.
Athens 2004 Olympic super-heavyweight champion Povetkin was caught with a shot above the eye that caused a nasty cut - but the Russian remained a risky threat throughout.
"There's a lot of pressure, the country is rooting for us all and boxing".
Joshua began dictating with his movement from the fourth round and started to find his range with his right hook.
But Povetkin could do nothing to repel the punches that rained down on him in the deciding seventh round.
Richard Damerell, Sky Sports: "A straight right hand sent shockwaves through the legs of Povetkin, and a left hook followed by a right sent him crashing to the canvas". Povetkin fell through the ropes as he courageously got to his feet and only just beat the count.
It is not so much what might have been but feelings of frustration for Joseph Parker would have undoubtedly bubbled to the surface after watching Anthony Joshua sweep past another heavyweight contender.
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