Yashpal Singh (65, 113b, 9x4, 2x6) was at the crease with M Rawat (12, 17b, 2x4) when the umpires called off the day's play due to bad light.
Gambhir, who failed to make it for the South Africa tour ODI squad despite some good knocks in the Challenger Trophy, batted with resolve for his 86 and set the script right for his team after North received some early blows after electing to bat.
The Delhi southpaw forged half-century partnerships with Ravneet Ricky for the second wicket and then with Yashpal for the fourth wicket after former India paceman Debashish Mohanty dismissed skipper Akash Chopra cheaply.
Normally aggressive, Gambhir played a restrained knock and took 204 balls for his 86 with nine hits to the fence. He was dismissed by Saurasis Lahiri who also scalped Ricky (29, 69b) and Mithun Manhas (21, 41b).
Yashpal, on the other hand, was fairly relaxed and wielded his willow whenever he got an opportunity. He hit nine fours and sent the cherry over the top twice in his 113-ball 65.
For East, Lahiri took three for 96 while Mohanty grabbed one for 23. Former India skipper Sourav Ganguly also chanced his arms and bowled five overs giving away eight runs.
North Zone Ist innings 252 for 4 (Gautam Gambhir 86, Yashpal Singh 65 not out, Ravneet Ricky 29 Mithun Manhas 21; Saurasis Lahiri 3 for 96, Debashish Mohanty 1 for 23) Vs East Zone