The powerful all-rounded Tottenham Hotspur midfielder came in for Radja Nainggolan as Marc Wilmots' men overcame Republic of Ireland 3-0 in Bordeaux and rose to second in Group E.
While Romelu Lukaku's double and a header from Axel Witsel did the damage, Dembele was an unsung presence before being forced off by an ankle injury on the hour mark.
Belgians without Dembele for crucial Sweden clash
Dembele completed 100% of his 30 passes, acting as the driving force of the Red Devils' midfield and generally showing the kind of form that made him so crucial to Spurs as they challenged for the Premier League title before a late slump saw them finish third.
The inclusion of the 28-year-old allowed Belgium to look much more assured and in control, but they will have to do without Dembele as they go head-to-head with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sweden - searching for at least a draw to finish second in the group behind Italy.
Dembele was forced off after 57 minutes by an ankle injury, later understood to be a sprain, similar to the problems which have previously troubled him over the last season.
Back in March, the midfielder struggled with ankle pain in national team training after aggravating a niggling problem that had seen him miss a few weeks of Spurs' campaign earlier in the year.
Speaking after the win over Ireland, he insisted: "We will see, I may be healed after two days." Although he took part in minor training, a light biking session, Dembele isn't expected to be risked by Wilmots as they look to seal their progression to the last 16.
Carrasco and Hazard to overcome injuries
However, Atletico Madrid winger Yannick Ferreira Carrasco is likely to return to the squad. He was replaced by Dries Mertens in the 64th minute after failing to shake off the impact of Shane Long's poorly-timed challenge on the stroke of half-time, but his issue is less serious than first thought and he thankfully hasn't damaged any ligaments.
Captain Eden Hazard is also expected to start despite tearing a ligament in his right thumb in training earlier in the week, having been issued a protective splint to play with the problem.