Galle - Half centuries from the in-form Kusal Mendis and skipper Angelo Mathews gave Sri Lanka the edge over Australia on the opening day of the second Test Thursday despite a five-wicket haul from Mitchell Starc.
Mendis followed up his maiden century in the first Test with a top score of 86 in Galle as Sri Lanka posted a total of 281 in their first innings before then grabbing two early wickets during the tourists' response.
Australia were 54 for two at stumps, still trailing the hosts by 227 runs in what is a must-win match for Steve Smith's side after they lost the first Test last weekend in Pallekele.
Vice captain David Warner was out in the last ball of the day when he edged Dilruwan Perera to slip after making a quickfire 42 off just 41 balls, an innings which included seven fours.
The debutant Vishwa Fernando also celebrated his first wicket in Test cricket when he sent opener Joe Burns trudging back to the pavilion for nought in only the second ball of the innings.
Usman Kawaja was the not-out batsman and he will resume his innings on Friday on 11.
Earlier Mendis was once again the standout batsman for Sri Lanka, sharing a 108-run stand with Kusal Perera to get the hosts' innings back on track after losing two early wickets.
His 137-ball knock was laced with 10 fours and two sixes as he entertained a lively home crowd at the Galle International Stadium.
But he became Starc's 100th victim in Test wicket when he was caught by the wicketkeeper Peter Nevil with the score at 184-4.
Having already accounted for the two Sri Lankan openers, the same bowler then accounted for the tailenders Rangana Herath and Lakshan Sandakan to finish with figures of 5 for 44.
Despite Starc's heroics, Sri Lanka enjoyed the better of the day with Mathews hitting an entertaining 54 off 65 balls which included three sixes.
Mathews came to the crease with a positive mindset as he made the reverse-sweep his stock shot against the offspinner Nathan Lyon, who bagged two wickets on a track that spun from the off.
Sri Lanka won the first Test at Pallekele by 106 runs, the first triumph in a Test match over the number one-ranked Australians in 17 years.
A victory for Sri Lanka in Galle would see them secure the series with one match to spare.