Debutant Craig Overton made Australia captain Steve Smith his first test victim but England could not drive home their advantage in the final session and the hosts finished the first day of day-night Ashes cricket on 209 for four on Saturday.
Peter Handscomb, who was 36 not out, and Shaun Marsh, unbeaten on 20, batted out the remainder of a tense session and will resume on day two as Australia look to build on their thumping 10-wicket victory in the opener at the Gabba.
England captain Joe Root gambled on bowling after winning the toss on an overcast afternoon but his bowlers initially failed to back his decision with the sort of sustained aggression that might have made greater inroads into the home batting.
Australia survived the rain-disrupted first session with all 10 wickets intact and openers Cameron Bancroft, run out for 10, and David Warner, caught behind for 47, departed in an extended second.
England struck straight after the second break to remove Usman Khawaja for 53, leaving Smith, whose unbeaten 141 was the difference between the sides in Brisbane, to again carry the burden.
With what sun there had been long gone and the Adelaide Oval bathed in the bright artificial light, though, Overton found the perfect length with an off-cutter and Smith played on for 40 — the bails flashing red as they flew into the night air.
England did well to restrict Australia’s scoring but will be disappointed not to have taken more wickets after sending the hosts into bat.
The crowd of 55,317 was a record for cricket at the ground, bettering the 50,962 that packed into the ground for the second day of the 1933 “Bodyline” test.
Although relations between the sides have not yet approached the lows of that series, there were plenty of words exchanged in the middle and umpire Aleem Dar at one stage felt the need to step between Smith and England’s James Anderson.
Anderson verbal aggression was reflected in his bowling in the final session when he had Khawaja caught by James Vince at gully but he and fellow pace spearhead Stuart Broad will be disappointed with their earlier contribution.
It was Chris Woakes who ended more than 80 overs over the last two tests without a wicket for an England bowler when he lured Warner into a thick edge that Jonny Bairstow swallowed up behind the stumps.
The seamer should have had his second wicket before the end of the session but Mark Stoneman dropped a Khawaja top edge at deep backward square and the left-hander had time to bring up his ninth half century with a crisp four to third man.