David Warner fell short of his century but Marnus Labuschagne remained on course for a hundred as they put Australia, missing regular skipper Pat Cummins, in a strong position against England in the day-night second Ashes test on Thursday.
Australia finished day one on 221-2 despite being jolted before the start of the match at Adelaide Oval with Cummins forced out after being identified as a close contact of a positive Covid-19 case.
With five overs remaining, Jos Buttler dropped a regulation catch off the bowling of James Anderson to offer a reprieve to Labuschagne, who remained not out on 95.
Australia's stand-in skipper Steve Smith was on 18, becoming his country's third captain - after Tim Paine and Cummins - in the last three tests.
England dominated the first session though they blew two reviews trying to get Warner, who made 95, dismissed.
Stuart Broad, recalled along with Anderson, removed Marcus Harris for three runs early on via a cracking catch from Buttler as a stuttering Australia failed to convince.
The first 10 overs yielded just 11 runs but slowly, the scorecard began to firm up with Warner, having recovered from bruised ribs incurred in the first test, forging a 172-run stand with Labuschagne.
But as England captain Joe Root brought himself into the attack to provide rest to his quicks, Warner appeared eager to up his scoring rate, an approach adopted equally by Labuschagne.
Broad provedWarner's nemesis once more but this time as catcher, holding onto a slashed shot at cover off Ben Stokes.
England did not bowl badly but their five-man seam attack looked increasingly insipid as solid containment gave way to more hurried scoring from Australia before 32,328 fans at Adelaide Oval.
For Australia, pace bowler Michael Neser made his test debut replacing Cummins.