England had been rocked by two late wickets at the end of day one and resumed on 233 for five.
Cameron Bancroft departed early and David Warner just before tea as Australia reached the second break on 96 for two in reply to England’s 346 on the second day of the fifth Ashes test on Friday.
England seamer Stuart Broad clean bowled Bancroft in the second over of the innings and Warner was caught behind off James Anderson for 56 to leave Usman Khawaja at the crease on 36 not out with his captain Steve Smith, who had made three.
Broad’s 31, featuring two thumping sixes, had earlier been integral to a bright morning for the tourists at the Sydney Cricket Ground as the England tail resisted some fearsome pace bowling to build a competitive tally.
Khawaja and Warner, though, brushed off the shock of the early loss of Bancroft and engaged cautiously with an England attack that sometimes featured two spinners to build a solid platform for the hosts as they look to wrap up the series 4-0.
Warner reached his half century with a single to square leg and had hit six boundaries when Anderson got one to move away from the batsman, who nicked the ball behind for Jonny Bairstow to take a low catch.
The Australia vice captain, who was born some 600 metres from the SCG, shook his ahead as he walked off the field at a ground where he has now reached the 50 mark in six of 11 test innings, three times going on to make a century.
Having already relinquished the urn, England’s hopes of a consolation victory to end the series suffered a hammer blow when they lost two wickets in the last couple of overs on day one.
Dawid Malan lasted less than half an hour after they had resumed on 233 for five before departing for 62, Mitchell Starc eliciting an outside edge which Smith caught brilliantly with a dive from second slip.
While Smith appeared to have returned to his usual reliability after dropping three catches in the series, his team mates then proceeded to produce a couple of howlers.
Pat Cummins dropped Tom Curran on 21 off Nathan Lyon and, in the next over, his fellow fast bowler Josh Hazlewood let Moeen Ali off the hook when he allowed the ball to slip through his hands with the all-rounder on 22.
England’s tail made the most of the reprieves with Curran hitting a confident 39 and Moeen 30 before both fell victim to the pace of Cummins (4-80).
Broad braved the short bowling almost until the scheduled lunch break before becoming spinner Lyon’s first victim of the match and the innings ended in a mix-up that resulted in Mason Crane being run-out for four in his maiden test innings.