Stuart Broad suddenly accelerated England's progress with two wickets in two balls on a day when their rewards were otherwise hard-earned at the Basin Reserve.
Contrasting half-centuries from Kevin Pietersen (73) and Matt Prior (82) ensured the tourists cashed in on day two of the second Test against New Zealand after Jonathan Trott and Nick Compton's hundreds on Thursday.
It nonetheless seemed England's bowlers would need plenty of stamina, as well as skill, on a benign pitch as the Kiwis responded to 465 all out with impressive resolve against the new ball. Broad, in fact, was already into the sixth over of his spell before he saw off Hamish Rutherford and then bowled Ross Taylor as the hosts scrambled to 66 for three at stumps.
Cloud replaced sunshine almost as soon as England's innings was done at teatime, but there were no immediate gains for either James Anderson or Steven Finn. Anderson did have his 293rd Test wicket, in his fourth over, when Peter Fulton fenced a catch to first slip.
But Rutherford, a revelation with his century on debut in last week's Dunedin stalemate, and number three Kane Williamson then dug in for more than an hour.
England continued to bowl well, but were met with accomplished defence until Rutherford succumbed - also edging to Alastair Cook at slip, in a near mirror-image replay of his opening partner's departure.
In awkward light, Broad then produced the perfect delivery to a new batsman, full-length swing bursting through Taylor's static attempt to protect his stumps.
England's earlier consolidation with the bat had been far from straightforward, after Trott fell to the first ball he faced. Pietersen's painstaking half-century was the slowest of four in the innings, and also his first significant contribution of the tour.
Then the ever reliable Prior upped the ante with a 77-ball 50, and an eighth-wicket stand of 83 with Steven Finn. Trott's was one of three wickets before lunch, and England were wobbling when Pietersen and Broad went in successive overs in early afternoon.
Bruce Martin finished with four for 130 after 48 overs of honest toil on a surface offering little to the seamers but increasingly hints of spin for the slow left-armer.