Australia's Nathan Lyon took four wickets as England collapsed to 238 for nine at stumps on the first day of the fourth Ashes Test at Chester-le-Street on Friday.
Off-spinner Lyon, controversially left out of the first two Ashes Tests in favour of teenager Ashton Agar, despite taking nine wickets in Delhi in the final Test of Australia's 4-0 series loss in March, had figures of four wickets for 42 runs in 20 overs at the close.
England captain Alastair Cook, who won the toss, was the only batsman to make a fifty on Friday as the hosts, who had been in a solid position at 107 for one, played a succession of poor shots in the face of accurate Australian bowling.
Tim Bresnan was 12 not out and last man James Anderson, who gave the crowd something to cheer with four fours, 16 not out.
Aiming for a draw
England first innings
A. Cook lbw b Bird 51
J. Root c Haddin b Watson 16
J. Trott c Khawaja b Lyon 49
K. Pietersen c Haddin b Lyon 26
I. Bell c Harris b Lyon 6
J. Bairstow lbw b Lyon 14
M. Prior lbw b Siddle 17
T. Bresnan not out 12
S. Broad c Warner b Harris 3
G. Swann c Lyon b Harris 13
J. Anderson not out 16
Extras (b5, lb1, w3, nb6) 15
Total (9 wkts, 90 overs, 393 mins) 238
Fall of wickets: 1-34 (Root), 2-107 (Trott), 3-149 (Pietersen), 4-153
(Cook), 5-155 (Bell), 6-189 (Prior), 7-193 (Bairstow), 8-197 (Broad), 9-214
(Swann) Bowling: Harris 19-3-70-2 (5nb); Bird 21-8-58-1; Watson 13-6-21-1 (2w);
Siddle 17-5-41-1 (1nb, 1w); Lyon 20-7-42-4;
Australia: Chris Rogers, David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Michael Clarke
(capt), Steven Smith, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin (wkt), Peter Siddle, Ryan
Harris, Jackson Bird, Nathan Lyon
Ashes-holders England came into this match having already retained the urn after a rain-affected draw in the third Test at Old Trafford left them 2-0 up with two to play.
But Australia could still deny them a series victory by winning both this match and the fifth Test at The Oval.
Cook opted to bat despite the pitch and overhead conditions promising assistance to Australia's seamers in the first Ashes match at the headquarters ground of northeast county Durham.
His decision also meant Cook put to one side his own modest form this Ashes, having scored just 145 runs in the first three Tests at 24.16 with a best of 62.
England, on a slowish outfield, initially found runs hard to come by against Ryan Harris and Tasmania's Jackson Bird, playing his third Test.
However, it was first change Shane Watson who had Joe Root (16) caught behind, although Australia had to challenge New Zealand umpire Tony Hill's original not-out verdict.
Nevertheless, the Hot Spot thermal imaging device - whose inventor Warren Brennan suggested this week was being duped by players on both sides deliberately applying silicone tape to their bats - that forms part of the controversial Decision Review System showed a mark and England were 34 for one.
Jonathan Trott, like Cook, had yet to make a major score this series, but he looked in good touch Friday until, trying to whip Lyon through his favourite onside region, he was caught off bat and pad by diving short leg Usman Khawaja for 49.
Pietersen, as happened during his Old Trafford century, didn't want Lyon to dictate terms.
He drove him down the ground and next ball lofted him over mid-off for another four.
Meanwhile Cook completed a 153-ball fifty when he edged Bird for four.
Pietersen then fell tamely when, with Lyon bowling around the wicket, he opened the face and got a thin edge to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin on 26.
Angered by suggestions from Australia's Channel Nine television he was one of the players taping his bat to trick Hot Spot, Pietersen walked off without waiting for Hill's decision.
And 149 for three soon became 155 for five.
First, Bird had Cook lbw after the batsman, who'd been at the crease for nearly four hours, played no stroke to a swinging ball.
Then, four balls into the final session, Ian Bell was out for his tea score of six when, trying to dominate Lyon, he mistimed a drive and was well caught by Harris at mid-off.
Matt Prior (17) was then out lbw on review to paceman Peter Siddle before Jonny Bairstow, who went more than an hour without scoring a run, undid all his patient occupation by missing a sweep off Lyon that saw him lbw for 14.
Bairstow reviewed but an 'umpire's call' decision saw him dismissed to leave England 193 for seven and there was still time for Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann to come and go as well.