Bulawayo - Zimbabwe leg-spinner Graeme Cremer struck late on day two to end a turgid opening stand and keep the West Indies in check in the second Test at Queens Sports Club on Monday.
A grinding partnership of 76 in almost 47 overs between Kraigg Brathwaite and Kieran Powell had given the West Indies a solid base in their reply to Zimbabwe's 326 all out, before Cremer removed Brathwaite for 32 to send the visitors to stumps on 78 for one.
"There are a lot of runs in that wicket," said West Indian fast bowler Kemar Roach. "The new ball hasn't been doing much - no major bounce or seam movement.
"Once the guys settle and put their heads down to bat, I think we'll be fine."
Powell closed the day unbeaten on 43, while nightwatchman Devendra Bishoo was yet to get off the mark.
While the second half of the day was attritional, the first half had been entertaining as Hamilton Masakadza turned his unbeaten 101 from Sunday into 147, and Sikandar Raza scored a battling 80.
With the pair extending their partnership for the fifth wicket to 90, Zimbabwe's total moved along from an overnight 169 for four to 246 for four before the West Indies struck three times in quick succession.
Masakadza top-edged a delivery from legspinner Bishoo and was caught by wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich, before Malcolm Waller and Regis Chakabva both departed cheaply, with Chakabva becoming Bishoo's 100th Test dismissal.
From 267 for seven Raza stabilised the innings alongside captain Cremer, but the West Indies took the second new ball after lunch and needed just 55 deliveries to wrap up the tail.
Raza was caught at second slip off the bowling of Shannon Gabriel, while Cremer was run out and debutant Tendai Chisoro was trapped lbw by Roach, who finished with figures of 3 for 44.
In reply, Brathwaite and Powell ended a run of 18 innings without a fifty partnership as they took the patient approach to batting on a slow, turning surface.
They cautiously guided their side through the first 16 overs to reach tea on 25 without loss, then added just 51 runs in the next 31 overs.
Offspinner Raza bowled his 13 overs for just 10 runs as the West Indies at times ground to a halt, giving Zimbabwe confidence that a couple of quick strikes on the third morning will put them back in charge of a game that they must win to earn a share of the series.
"Considering the number of overs we've bowled, the run rate is a bit slow, even for Test cricket," said left-arm spinner Chisoro.
"So if you add two wickets onto that score, it's a different ball game."