Shane Watson's battling century led Australia to 307-4 despite a mini-fightback from England on day one of the fifth and final Ashes test at The Oval on Wednesday.
The powerful all-rounder was struck on the head by a Stuart Broad bouncer before reaching his third test hundred as England briefly recovered from a chastening morning during which Watson launched a fierce assault on debutants Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan.
Graeme Swann dismissed Chris Rogers for 23 and James Anderson bowled Michael Clarke for seven to become England's second-highest wicket-taker in Tests, moving him above Willis and behind only Ian Botham on 383.
But Watson, badly dropped by captain Alastair Cook on 104, survived to score a further 72 runs before being caught superbly by Kevin Pietersen off Broad.
Australia captain Clarke won the toss and had no hesitation in choosing to bat under clear blue skies on a wicket which traditionally offers little help to bowlers.
England made a breakthrough with the total on 11 when Anderson drew David Warner into a loose drive and the opener, on six, edged a regulation catch to wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
Anderson and Broad bowled tight opening spells but there was precious little movement in the air or off the seam and Cook soon turned to off-spinner Swann.
Rogers played out three successive maidens from Swann but runs flowed more freely at the other end, Watson hitting Woakes for three fours in an over as the all-rounder struggled to find a good length on his debut.
Watson pulled Woakes powerfully for another boundary and danced down the pitch to lift Swann over long-on for six before reaching his half-century with a single from Kerrigan's first ball in Test cricket.
The left-arm spinner was a surprise inclusion in the England side and Watson greeted him with a withering attack, smashing 28 runs off his first two overs.
Cook was forced to bring back Swann and Broad to stem the flow of runs but Australia reached lunch on a healthy 112 for one.
Broad bowled a hostile spell at the start of the afternoon session and Swann removed Rogers for a painstaking 23 off 100 balls, the left-hander edging a turning delivery low to Jonathan Trott at slip.
With Watson on 91, Broad struck him on the side of the head with a ferocious short-pitched delivery. Clarke, after taking 39 balls to get to seven, was bowled by a fine delivery from Anderson which nipped back to bowl him off his pad.
After 41 minutes in the nineties, Watson drove Anderson through cover for three to reach three figures and he celebrated by removing his helmet and raising both arms high in the air.
He should, however, have become Anderson's 327th victim when, on 104, he edged the ball to Cook at slip but the captain spilled a simple catch.
Woakes returned to the attack to bowl a much tidier second spell but Kerrigan's suffering continued, an embarrassing waist-high full toss easily dispatched to the boundary by Smith in the last over before tea.
Watson kicked on to reach 176 before he pulled a short ball from Broad out to Pietersen at deep backward square, with the England batsman taking a stunning catch diving low to snaffle the ball.
Peter Siddle ended the day on 18 not out after he came in as a nightwatchman with Australia four wickets down, and he joined the composed Smith, who had 66 to his name by stumps.
It was Watson's day as the opener, who has been criticised for failing to score big runs all series, finally came good in the fifth match of a series that Australia have already lost.