Bell, who scored a magnificent century in the first Test of the series at Trent Bridge, became only the fourth Englishman to score three Ashes tons on the bounce with his 109, following Jack Hobbs, Wally Hammond and Chris Broad in achieving the feat.
The Warwickshire man came in with his side reeling at 28 for three and combined with both Jonathan Trott (58) and Jonny Bairstow (67) in taking England to 271 for five before he was eventually dismissed by part-time leg spinner Steve Smith.
Indeed, it was Smith who ensured that England slipped into a vulnerable position by the end of the first day's play as the spinner took three wickets in the final session to give Australia a timely boost after Bell's fine innings.
The 24-year-old undid a lot of Bell's good work as Bairstow chipped a full toss straight back at the bowler to gift his wicket, before Matt Prior departed in tame fashion with a nick behind as Michael Clarke was rewarded for his faith in throwing the ball to Smith.
It was a desperate way to end the day for England after Bell's substantial partnerships with Trott and Bairstow, with Alastair Cook's side having a lot of work still to do on day two with the bat as James Anderson was employed as a nightwatchman to protect Stuart Broad at number nine.
Having dominated the start and end of a see-saw day at the home of cricket, Australia will be confident of taking the final three England wickets and exploiting what remain very good conditions in which to bat.
Cook won the toss on a gloriously sunny day but was the first batsman to fall in just the fifth over of the day as Shane Watson trapped the England captain lbw for a 12 that included the first two boundaries of the match.
Both sides made changes after the hosts’ thrilling victory in the first Test at Trent Bridge as England dropped paceman Steven Finn – who lost his rhythm and confidence in Nottingham - for Tim Bresnan. Australia, meanwhile, omitted left-arm seamer Mitchell Starc and number three Ed Cowan to bring in Khawaja and fast bowler Harris.
Just six balls after Cook's dismissal, his opening partner Joe Root also departed as Ryan Harris – brought in as one of two changes for Australia – struck the Yorkshire batsman on the pads and sent him on his way for just six.
England had the decision reviewed, but it was unsuccessful as umpire Marais Erasmus’s original call was upheld by the third umpire without any of the controversy that blighted the first Test in Nottingham.
With only two further runs added, Kevin Pietersen was dismissed for two by Harris with wicketkeeper Brad Haddin taking a comfortable catch behind the stumps with a meagre 28 runs on the board.
It was a desperate start from England after having won the toss under blue skies at Lord’s, with the first over having been delayed by 15 minutes as the Queen greeted the players and umpires on the outfield before taking a seat in the pavilion.
But Trott and Bell hit nine boundaries between them to lead the recovery as Australia’s bowlers were frustrated before the lunch break, with the Warwickshire duo putting on a 99-run stand for the fourth wicket.
Trott eventually fell for 58 as he gifted the impressive Harris with his third wicket by miscuing a pull shot to Usman Khawaja at midwicket, and it was left to Bell and Bairstow to continue into the final session of the day after the latter had been given a reprieve with Peter Siddle overstepping as he bowled the Yorkshireman.
Bell reached his century in typically fluent fashion - his second of what is already proving to be a distinguished series for the batsman - but he finished on the same mark as he did at Trent Bridge as he departed for 109 with Smith claiming his first scalp.
Barely had the standing ovation for Bell subsided before Bairstow and Prior joined the number five back in the pavilion after loose strokes, and suddenly the momentum was right back in Australia's favour by the end of the day.
England made what could be regarded as a strange decision to protect number nine Broad with Anderson, but it only serves to demonstrate the fact that Andy Flower and Cook realise many more runs are required for the hosts to post a substantial first-innings total on a good pitch.