Sri Lanka off-spinner Tharindu Kaushal scythed through Pakistan's batting order to pick up his first five-wicket haul as the visitors were bundled out for 138 on the opening day of the second Test.
In reply, the hosts made a watchful start and reached stumps on 70 for one, losing of opener Dimuth Karunaratne (28). Kaushal Silva (21) and Kumar Sangakkara (18) were at the crease.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq was left to rue his decision to bat as Sri Lanka's bowlers extracted enough movement from the P Sara Oval pitch to dismiss their opponents in two sessions.
Kaushal, playing only his second Test, came in as a replacement for the injured Dilruwan Perera and took all his wickets in the second session after fast bowler Dhammika Prasad picked up the first three.
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Opener Mohammad Hafeez (42), who was hit on the back of his helmet by debutant fast-bowler Dushmantha Chameera, was the highest scorer for the visitors, who won the opening Test in Galle by 10 wickets.
Such was Kaushal's impact on the innings that Sri Lanka did not need their main spinner Rangana Herath to bowl an over as the 22-year-old with a distinctive high-kneed run-up rose to the occasion on his home debut with figures of five for 42.
Sri Lanka also handed a debut to 23-year-old Chameera, who picked up his first Test wicket when Zulfiqar Babar dragged a short ball onto his stumps.
The third and final Test is in Pallekele from July 3-7 before the teams play five ODIs and two Twenty20s.
Pakistan 138 all out (Hafeez 42, Kaushal 5-42)
Sri Lanka 70-1 (Karunaratne 28, Junaid 1-26)