Tim Southee was the pick of the Kiwi bowlers with the seamer with figures of 5-67 as Sri Lanka fought back through half-centuries from Dimuth Karunaratne, Angelo Mathews and Niroshan Dickwella.
Dickwella remained unbeaten on 73 at the crease even as Trent Boult dismissed Kasun Rajitha off the final delivery of the day.
Earlier in the day, Southee made a blazing start with the ball in hand after New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson won the toss and elected to field first. The Kiwi seamer took three quick-fire wickets of Danushka Gunathilaka, Dhananjaya de Silva to leave Sri Lanka reeling at 9-3.
Southee returned later to dismiss the well-set Mathews (83) and Sri Lanka skipper Dinesh Chandimal in successive overs to register his eighth five-for in Test cricket.
Following the early setback, Karunaratne (79) and Mathews put on a 133-run stand for the fourth wicket before the former fell to Neil Wagner while attempting a pull shot. After Mathews fell for a hard-fought 83, Dickwella ensured that the tourists would continue to bat on day two with a superb unbeaten fifty while shepherding the tail.
Sri Lanka first innings: 275-9 (87 overs)
Angelo Mathews: 83 (153)
Dimuth Karunaratne: 79 (144)
Tim Southee: 5-67 (25 overs)
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