Jos Buttler and Sam Curran led England out of trouble and into a promising position on day one of the second Test against Sri Lanka in Pallekele.
The tourists fell to 89-4 on a pitch showing prodigious turn before Buttler struck a superb 63 off 67 balls.
On 171-7 they still faced being bowled out cheaply, only for Curran to hit six sixes in a stunning onslaught, his 64 helping England reach 285 all out.
Jack Leach bowled Kaushal Silva for six as Sri Lanka reached 26-1 at the close.
The hosts trail by 259 runs and face a tough battle to reach England’s score, with the tourists’ spinners causing problems straight away.
Although their top order failed once again, England’s lower order have pushed their side a step closer to a first away series win under captain Joe Root, having won the first match of the three-Test series last week.