Late wickets for Graeme Swann and James Anderson gave England a much-needed boost after Sri Lanka made a strong start to the opening Test in Cardiff.
After showers delayed play until 1530 BST, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Tharanga Paranavitana (58) made light of testing conditions with an opening stand of 93.
Swann, not used until the 27th over, made the breakthrough for England when he bowled captain Dilshan for 50.
Anderson had Kumar Sangakkara caught behind as the tourists closed on 133-2.
It was a relatively flat start to an important summer for Andrew Strauss and his team, whose stated aim is to use their historic Ashes triumph in Australia as a springboard to becoming the world's best Test side.
But it was a far cry from the euphoria of Sydney in January, as seamers Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Tremlett - preferred to Steven Finn - were made to toil by Sri Lanka's in-form openers.
That said, the dismissals of key men Dilshan and Sangakkara gave England a fillip late in the day and further breakthroughs on Friday morning could yet swing the balance in the home side's favour.
"I thought we started pretty well considering we spent most of the day in the dressing room, it sometimes can be quite hard to get yourself up for that kind of start time," said Anderson.
"But I thought we did brilliantly in the first hour. We could have got a few wickets, we beat the bat a couple of times but they played pretty well too and left well.
"I thought we got some deserved wickets in the evening."
After winning the toss and choosing to bat, Dilshan and Paranavitana made an impressive start as the clouds finally gave way to sunshine midway through the afternoon in the Welsh capital.
Both batsmen got their boundary count under way in the second over as Broad was flayed for 11 runs, with Dilshan sending a perfectly decent delivery straight back past the bowler for a sumptuous four.
Concentration was the order of the day, with the ball moving around in the air, but after scoring centuries in both Sri Lanka's warm-up games, Paranavitana and Dilshan looked in fine nick and coped admirably in unfamiliar conditions.
Broad, playing Test cricket for the first time since the second Ashes Test in early December, looked particularly rusty, struggling for a consistent line on a blustery afternoon. Anderson, in contrast, was straighter and more accurate, beating the bat on numerous occasions without reward.
The tea break seemed to herald a more positive approach from Dilshan, who cracked three boundaries from the first two overs after the interval.
A switch to round-the-wicket almost brought a breakthrough for Anderson as the left-handed Paranavitana clipped a rising delivery in the air, but the ball fell just short of Eoin Morgan at point.
Dilshan reached his 17th Test half-century from 92 balls only to be dismissed by Swann two balls later as he chopped a turning delivery that kept low onto his stumps.
The off-spinner had been ignored by Strauss until the 27th over of the innings but he showed his value to the side with a wicket in his fourth over.
Sangakkara, who can regain top spot in the Test batting rankings with a strong showing in Cardiff, hit one trademark cover drive to the fence before he was dismissed in controversial circumstances.
A fine delivery from Anderson had England appealing for a caught behind but umpire Aleem Dar gave it not out.
Captain Strauss sent the decision to the third umpire for review and, after a lengthy delay, Hot spot confirmed a faint edge, forcing Dar to overturn his decision, much to the obvious annoyance of Sangakkara.
"With the strong breeze across, the guys in front weren't convinced but the slips were convinced and Straussy had no hesitation," claimed Anderson.
Paranavitana reached his sixth Test half-century in the third over before the close with the fifth boundary of a largely watchful innings.
Sri Lanka will look to the left-hander and former skipper Mahela Jayawardene (4 not out) to propel them towards an imposing first innings score in the morning.
A satisfied Dilshan said his side would be looking to amass a score over 400.
"If we can out some runs on the board, I think more than 350 or 400 would be a good score on that wicket, we can try and put pressure on the England side," he said.
"I'm very happy with 133 for two, although personally I am very disappointed that after getting in I played a bad shot and got out, but otherwise I am happy with the performance.
"I thought the three England quicks bowled well, they bowled a good line, but Paranavitana batted really well and overall I am very happy."
Anderson believes the Cardiff wicket, which some had suggested may offer little to the bowlers, has enough in it to give encouragement to the home attack.
"There's more life than we thought here," he said. "We were delighted that there is some movement there and a little bit of bounce for the taller guys.
"If you bend your back you can get something out of the pitch so it's a good cricket wicket.
"It's going to be a hard contest tomorrow I think and further on in the game."