Stuart Broad took a hat-trick and Liam Plunkett earned his maiden Test five-wicket haul as England bowled Sri Lanka out for 257 at Headingley.
Broad began with the wicket of Kumar Sangakkara (79) and, with the first two balls of his next over, added those of Dinesh Chandimal and tailender Shaminda Eranga on the opening day of the second Investec Test.
The bowler, his team-mates and crowd, however, were initially unaware of the sequence as the change of over - and a wicket in between for Plunkett (five for 64) at the other end - confused one and all.
Broad's second Test hat-trick - he is the only England bowler ever to repeat the feat - is just the third on this ground, and consolidated Plunkett's good work.
Sri Lanka lost four wickets for one run in nine balls, vindicating unquestionably Alastair Cook's decision to bowl first - one previously open to debate after morning cloud cover soon dissipated.
When the England captain then escaped a close call with the bat on five, the third umpire ruling unsurprisingly his edge off Eranga to Sangakkara at slip had not conclusively carried, he could reflect on a successful first day as his team closed on 36 without loss.
Sangakkara too rode his luck on the way past 50 for the sixth consecutive time in Test matches - sharing half-century stands with Mahela Jayawardene, Angelo Mathews and Chandimal.
Before Broad's intervention, it seemed Plunkett - who was also on a hat-trick in early afternoon - might be the man to endorse Cook's decision as England's progress proved patchy up to tea.
Lateral movement in the air and occasionally off the pitch made batting no easy occupation, but the hosts did not always make the most of their opportunities.
They managed two morning wickets, those of openers Kaushal Silva and then Dimuth Karunaratne - respectively caught behind off James Anderson, after a cagey first hour, and then bowled leg stump by a searing Plunkett inswinger from around the wicket.
Number three Sangakkara had a run-out scare on nought and then might have been caught behind on 16 off Plunkett had England appealed for an apparent edge.
He was reprieved for the third time on 27, edging Plunkett behind again only for the ball to go straight through Matt Prior's gloves, pop up off his chest and to ground.
Jayawardene then had only five when his hook at Plunkett did not stick as Ian Bell jumped high at leg slip, and the third-wicket stand had added 52 either side of lunch when Plunkett gave England fresh momentum with two wickets in two balls on his new home ground following his move from Durham last year.
Jayawardene was pushing slightly away from his body and brilliantly caught one-handed low down to his right by a diving Chris Jordan. Then the next ball was too good for Lahiru Thirimanne, fenced straight to short leg.
Sangakkara and Mathews needed to dig in at 108 for four, and duly did so until the returning Anderson had the Sri Lanka captain edging low to be neatly caught by Gary Ballance at third slip.
There was another escape round the corner for Sangakkara - who passed his half-century in 106 balls before cutting Jordan high to point, where Moeen Ali could not hold a tough chance.
By early evening, Sangakkara and Chandimal had pushed on to 228 for five - before Broad took over.
He had Sangakkara spearing a square drive to be well caught by Bell at gully, and more Plunkett pace and bounce had Dhammika Prasad caught behind for a duck.
Broad, famed for his knack of seizing the moment, did exactly that by finding Chandimal's outside edge, to Cook at slip, and doubling up when Eranga pushed forward and was caught behind.
The celebration was merely for another wicket but not the hat-trick, and it was only after a PA announcement conveyed the information at the end of the over that there was general recognition of Broad's feat - not to mention a little embarrassment too, on and off the pitch.
Broad (three for 46) might have had his fourth wicket, had Ballance clung on to another slip catch to close the innings on 246, but instead Nuwan Pradeep survived in a stand eventually ended by Plunkett.
England therefore had time for 15 overs of batting, in which Cook (14 not out) and Sam Robson (21no) played with significant caution.