Alex Hales and Jonny Bairstow led the England recovery against Sri Lanka, but no play was possible in the final session as rain ended play early at Headlingley.
Dasun Shanaka took three wickets in the space of eight balls on his Test debut to reduce the hosts to 83 for 5 shortly after lunch.
However, Hales remains unbeaten on a Test-best score of 71, and Bairstow’s swift 54* helped to drag their side back into the game.
No play was possible in the evening session as England head into day two on 171 for 5 as they look to rebuild their innings further.
Angelo Mathews won the toss and elected to have first use of the pitch and favourable conditions for the bowlers.
England slump after mellow start
Alastair Cook came into the game needing just 36 runs to pass 10,000 Test runs, and during a very muted hour, the Sri Lankan bowlers kept the run-rate low.
However, after it appeared that the English openers saw off the opening spell, Cook drove at a wider delivery from Shanaka and was caught for 16.
The dismissal lifted the visitors and Nick Compton pushed at a wider delivery also, edging to Lahiru Thirimanne in the slips.
His next wicket was probably the biggest of them all, Joe Root, who had recently been names England cricketer of the year.
The Yorkshireman was looking to get off the mark, but instead of driving the full ball away, he edged it to Kusal Mendis in the gully.
Both Compton and Root had departed for ducks, and the three wickets for Shanaka came in the space of just eight balls.
England on ropes after two more wickets fall
Debutant James Vince hadn’t got off the mark by lunch, having faced 18 balls, but he didn’t last long after as he departed for nine when he edged to Mendis in the slips.
England were on the ropes when Ben Stokes came to the crease, but after crunching three boundaries back-to-back, he drove wildly at Nuwan Prandeep and was caught at mid-off for 12.
Batsmen were dropping like flies, but Hales remained at the crease, and this forced the opener into playing with caution while Bairstow took the attack to the bowlers.
Bairstow and Hales regroup
Hales brought up his fifty, with 40 of the runs coming in boundaries shortly after Stokes departed, as Bairstow brought up the England 100 with a flashing shot through the third-man region.
After a questionable leg-before decision was overturned following Bairstow’s review, he survived another appeal, this time after the Sri Lankans reviewed a decision.
The Yorkshireman went on to bring up his half-century by slotting the ball through to the third man boundary, and the innings was looking more and more healthier as the overs went on.
England made it to tea on 171 for 5, Hales and Bairstow’s partnership was at 88, but the covers had to be brought on after the heavens started to open.
Just 53 overs were able to be bowled on the first day of the UK summer, and what a shame it was after the first two sessions didn’t disappoint.