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Australia reached 150-3 at the close of the opening day of the second test, punishing Sri Lanka after the visitors had failed to build on Kumar Sangakkara's landmark half century and were dismissed for just 156.
Openers Ed Cowan and David Warner charged to 95 without loss but Sri Lanka checked the hosts with three quick wickets following the drinks break in the post-tea session.
The mini-revival stalled, however, with two demoralising dropped catches late in the day that allowed Australia captain Michael Clarke (20 not out) and Shane Watson (13 not out) to survive a watchful final hour to stumps.
Swashbuckling opener David Warner got Australia off to a flying start, blasting eight fours and a massive six over long on off the bowling of seamer Chanaka Welegedera.
Warner despatched Sri Lanka's pace trio to all corners of the ground before all-rounder Angelo Mathews ended his innings at 62 when he belted a pull shot straight to Dhammika Prasad in front of the rope at deep mid-wicket.
That precipitated a minor collapse, with number three batsman Phillip Hughes run out for 10 and Cowan caught behind for 36 six balls later.
Hughes fell in farcical circumstances, failing to leave his crease as Cowan charged through for a single after poking the ball to midwicket.
The misjudgement allowed the fielding Tillakaratne Dilshan enough time to fumble the ball before whipping it back to the stumps where Kumar Sangakkara whipped off the bails.
Cowan soon brought about his own downfall with an indiscriminate swipe at a Prasad delivery that flew into the welcoming hands of Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene at second slip.
At the start of the day, Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat in brilliant sunshine at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and would have been hoping to set the hosts a major target in their bid to square the three-match series.
However, barring Sangakkara's feat of scoring his 10,000th test run within a solid 58, the visitors endured an abysmal day in front of more than 67,000 spectators in the Boxing Day crowd.
Australia's seamers reduced the tourists to 79-3 by lunch and took the last seven wickets for a paltry 77 runs.
Mitchell Johnson, back in the side after being overlooked for Australia's first-test victory in Hobart, unleashed a mean spell of short-pitched bowling and missed out on a hat-trick straight after the drinks break in the middle session.
The mercurial left-armer was the pick of Australia's bowlers with figures of 4-63, capturing the dangerous Sangakkara's wicket and claiming his 200th victim in tests.
The 31-year-old had Matthew Wade to thank, the wicketkeeper bolting 50 metres behind the wicket to take a brilliant lunging catch in front of the southern stand after Sangakkara had sent a top edge soaring into the heavens.
Sangakkara had earlier become the 11th batsman in test history to reach the 10,000-run milestone and did it in style with a glorious cover drive for four off the same bowler in the final over before lunch.
The 35-year-old former captain bathed in a standing ovation and shook hands with the Australian team but his dismissal left Sri Lanka 147-8, snuffing out their hopes of more competitive total.
While Johnson showed venom, and enjoyed fine support from seamers Peter Siddle (2-30) and debutant Jackson Bird (2-32), Sri Lanka's batsmen were culpable as they flashed carelessly on a wicket that deserved more respect.
Sri Lanka's woes were further compounded by the news that wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene had broken his thumb and needed to be replaced behind the stumps by Sangakkara.