A determined Sangakkara was at his majestic best as he produced a near flawless 156 not out while wickets tumbled around him, with Sri Lanka all out for 268 and New Zealand 66 for four in reply at stumps on Friday.
In a frenetic day on a pitch which offered the batsmen plenty, 14 wickets fell including six ducks.
In a repeat of the opening stanza in the first Test in Christchurch, Mahela Jayawardene again won the toss, chose to bat, and was let down by his openers.
This time Chris Martin was New Zealand's chief destroyer, posting figures of three for 20 as Sri Lankan wickets fell at regular intervals and they went to lunch at 112 for four.
But Sangakkara was undaunted and the pitch held no fears for him as he backed up from his unbeaten century in the first Test.
He found an ally in Chamara Silva to put on 121 for the fifth wicket, and was then joined by Prasanna Jayawardene to add a further 37 runs.
Silva, who was out for a pair in his Test debut in Christchurch, made amends with a well earned 61 before edging James Franklin to Stephen Fleming at first slip.
Jayawardene, who was dropped by Brendon McCullum when on four, and later edged Shane Bond between McCullum and Fleming, reached 25 before he was out on the last ball before tea when trapped in front by spinner Daniel Vettori.
With those two partnerships out of the way, the Sri Lankan batting collapsed for a second time and the last five wickets fell for 29 runs.
Martin, the pick of the New Zealand bowlers, ripped through the Sri Lankan top order and finished the day with three for 50.
He struck with his third ball of the day which Sanath Jayasuriya (0) edged straight to Fleming at first slip. Upul Tharana (7) knicked Martin to wicketkeeper McCullum, and Jayawardene (0) was bowled by the speedster.
Chamara Kapugedera contributed five in a 40-run partnership with Sangakkara for the fourth wicket before guiding Jacob Oram to Mathew Sinclair in slips.
Vettori cleaned up the Sri Lankan tail, taking three for 53 and when New Zealand openers Jamie How and Craig Cumming went out to the middle, Sri Lanka's total of 268 did not seem a significant task.
But when New Zealand reached 30, they staged their own collapse when Cumming was bowled by Farveez Maharoof for 13.
Lasith Malinga proved too much for the New Zealand batsmen, taking How for 26 and then the prized wicket of Fleming without scoring and New Zealand were three for 40.
When Nathan Astle looked like he could lead a New Zealand revival, Malinga clean bowled him with a 147-kilometer-an-hour late-swinging delivery to end the day's play.
New Zealand lead the two-Test series 1-0.
Sri Lanka 1st innings: 268 (K. Sangakkara not out 156, C. Silva c Fleming b Franklin 61, P. Jayawardene lbw b Vettori 25)
Fall of wkts: 1-0, 2-27, 3-41, 4-81, 5-202, 6-239, 7-240, 8-251, 9-259
Bowling: Bond 16-1-85-2 (3nb), Martin 13-2-50-3 (1nb), Franklin 12-2-46-1 (4nb), Oram 3-0-10-1, Vettori 14-1-53-3, Astle 7-2-22-0
New Zealand 1st innings: 66 for 4 wkts(C. Cumming b Maharoof 13, J. How lbw b Malinga 26, N. Astle b Malinga 17)
Fall of wkts: 1-30, 2-40, 3-40, 4-66
Bowling: Vaas 4-0-8-0, Malinga 9.4-2-37-3, Maharoof 5-2-10-1 (1nb), Muralitharan 4-1-8-0