Hosts India bowled out England for a modest 246 and then cruised to 119 for one in reply on day one of the opening test at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad on Thursday.
Ben Stokes produced a captain's knock of 70 to help England post a competitive total before they wilted early in the final session.
Opener Yashasvi Jaiswal led India's strong reply with a rapid unbeaten 76 while Shubman Gill was on 14 at the close.
India lost Rohit Sharma for 24 but would still hope to grab a handy lead, especially after England burnt all three reviews in their desperation for breakthroughs.
"I think we did a great job of restricting them on such a good track," India's spin-bowling all-rounder Axar Patel told reporters.
"It's only the odd ball, which is spinning, and it's not spinning a lot either.
"It's a slow pitch. Our goal will be to bat normally and bat long."
For the first time in a men's test, England went into the match with a lone fast bowler in Mark Wood, opting for a spin-heavy attack instead, which included debutant Tom Hartley.
India resisted any such temptation and retained seamers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj, perhaps knowing a three-pronged spin attack could get the job done.
That trust was not misplaced as their spin trio of Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin and Patel claimed eight of the 10 English wickets.
While the pitch provided significant turn, England's frontline batters were guilty of not converting starts following Stokes' decision to bat on a dry wicket.
Ben Duckett (35) and Zak Crawley (20) batted with the kind of aggression that has become the hallmark of the Stokes-led side during their opening stand of 55.
But home captain Rohit turned the match on its head by introducing spin from both ends after the first eight overs.
Ashwin (3-68) trapped Duckett lbw with a ball that did not turn and Jadeja (3-88) had Ollie Pope (one) caught by Rohit at first slip.
Crawley charged out against Ashwin only to drill the ball to Siraj at mid-off, where the fielder took a low, tumbling catch.
Jonny Bairstow (37) and Joe Root (29) added 61 runs for the fourth wicket but India wrested back control after lunch.
Left-arm spinner Patel drew Bairstow forward with a delivery that spun just enough to beat the bat and hit the off-stump.
Root attempted a sweep against Jadeja and ended up top-edging the ball to Bumrah at short fine leg.
England slumped to 155-7 but Stokes counter-attacked even though a boisterous 24,000 crowd egged on India, who have not lost a test series on home soil since 2012.
Playing his first international match since knee surgery in November, Stokes smashed Jadeja for back-to-back sixes bringing up his fifty in 69 balls.
Bumrah (2-28) returned to breach Stokes's defence and hasten England's collapse.
Hartley shared the new ball with Wood and Jaiswal welcomed the spinner by hitting his first ball in international cricket for a six, a treatment the opener would repeat four balls later.
"I felt like we weren't reckless today," Duckett said of England's batting.
"I felt we played well at times and people dug in and no one was striking at 150.
"We were kind of digging in and rotated pretty well... We have a bit of a debrief now but I think we're probably pretty happy."