Australia were 66 for two in response to Sri Lanka's 117 all out at tea on the opening day of the first Test in Pallekele on Tuesday.
Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith stitched together an unbeaten 59-run third-wicket partnership after the visitors lost openers David Warner (0) and Joe Burns (3) early.
Sri Lanka's Nuwan Pradeep and Rangana Herath shared one wicket each after their batsmen lost the plot to Australian bowlers Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon who picked up three wickets each.
Australia's Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon led an inspired bowling attack to help skittle out Sri Lanka for 117 on the opening day of the first Test in Pallekele on Tuesday.
Fast bowler Hazlewood and off-spinner Lyon bagged three wickets each to make Sri Lanka's batting look less than ordinary after captain Angelo Mathews had elected to bat first after winning the toss.
Debutant Dhanajaya de Silva top-scored with 24 for the hosts, while Mitchell Starc and left-arm spinner Steve O'Keefe claimed two wickets each for Australia.
Sri Lanka had reached lunch at 84 for five, but could only survive 6.2 overs in the second session to hand the advantage to Steven Smith's Australia.
Hazlewood bagged three wickets to leave Sri Lanka rattled on 84 for five at lunch on the opening day of the first Test in Pallekele on Tuesday.
Mitchell Starc, returning after eight months of injury, drew first blood for the visitors after the hosts elected to bat first.
The left-armer trapped Dimuth Karunaratne lbw for five in the fifth over, prompting the opener to call for an unsuccessful review of the decision.
Although spinners are expected to dominate on a dry surface at Pallekele International Stadium, it was the Australian fast bowlers who took early advantage as they tore into the Sri Lankan top order.
Hazlewood, bowling with pace and variety, then trapped Kusal Mendis lbw for eight and had Kaushal Silva caught at first slip by Adam Voges for four.
In his second spell he had vice-captain Dinesh Chandimal caught behind by wicketkeeper Peter Nevill 10 minutes before lunch.
Left-arm spinner Steve O'Keefe claimed the prized wicket of captain Angelo Mathews, caught at first slip by his opposite number Steven Smith.
Debutant Dhananjaya de Silva (24 not out) battled to survive the remainder of the first session with Kusal Perera (12 not out).