Australia was restricted to 2/54 at stumps after bowling Sri Lanka out for 281 on the first day of the second Test at Galle.
Desperate to atone for their heavy first-Test defeat, the tourists enjoyed a blistering start as Mitchell Starc removed both openers to leave Sri Lanka reeling at 2/9.
The hosts recovered to 2/109 at lunch, but Nathan Lyon had Kusal Perera (49) soon after the resumption.
Kusal Mendis, the hero of the first-Test win, reached 86 before becoming Starc’s third victim, while Angelo Mathews made a swift 54 off 65.
Debutant spinner Jon Holland trapped Dhananjaya de Silva (37) to claim his maiden Test wicket, while Starc notched a five-for by rattling the stumps of Rangana Herath (16) and Lakshan Sandakan (14) to finish off the hosts’ first dig.
Sri Lankan debutant Vishwa Fernando enjoyed a dream start to his Test career by claiming Joe Burns in the second ball of Australia’s innings, while Perera landed a crucial blow at the end of Day 1, removing David Warner after a freewheeling 42 off 41.
Usman Khawaja (11*) will resume with Steve Smith on Day 2.