At stumps on Thursday, they were 85 for two after dismissing Sri Lanka for 154.
After opener Jamie How fell for a duck, the recalled New Zealand batsmen Craig Cumming and Mathew Sinclair went to work as the pitch eased in the afternoon sun.
Cumming, who was caught in slips early from a Lasith Malinga no ball, recovered to be not out 37 at stumps, while Sinclair fell to Chaminda Vass shortly before the close for 36.
But while there was an air of confidence in the New Zealand camp, Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene was left to rue his decision to bat first on a green wicket with overcast morning skies when he won the toss.
The groundsman warned it was a seamer's pitch to begin with and would flatten as the match progressed, but Jayawardene wanted only for his champion spinner Muttiah Muralitharan to bowl last.
The match was only 17 balls old when New Zealand strike bowler Shane Bond claimed the wicket of Sanath Jayasuriya on his way to dismissing Sri Lanka's most experienced trio of batsmen and returning figures of three for 43.
Apart from a 50-run partnership between Upul Tharanga (33) and Chamara Kapugedera (37) for the fourth wicket, the Sri Lankan batsmen put up scant resistance and the innings folded just before the scheduled tea break.
They went to lunch at 77 for three and after the break lost their last seven wickets for 77.
Bond was at his hostile best in his first Test on his home track.
He swung the ball away from Jayasuriya and was edged to Stephen Fleming at first slip to have the opener out for five.
Two overs later he dismissed Kumar Sangakkara for four with a similar ball that flew to Sinclair, and completed his rout of the top order with a short ball that Jayawardene, on eight, skied to James Franklin at fine leg.
But while Bond won plaudits for his bowling his performance was less impressive in the field, where he dropped two late catches when Muttiah Muralitharan engaged in lusty hitting for a 22-run final partnership with Lasith Malinga.
Franklin also took three wickets, including Tharanga and Kapugedera just after lunch, to return the figures of three for 30.
Chris Martin's dismissal of Prasanna Jayawardene saw the right armer become the 11th New Zealander to take 100 Test wickets.
Sri Lanka 154 all out ( C Kapugedara 37, Upul Tharanga 33; Bond 3 for 43, Franklin 3 for 30) Vs New Zealand 77 for 2 ( C Cumming 37 n o, M Sinclair 36; Malinga 1 for 14, Vaas 1 for 33)