It was not until the eighth-wicket pair dug in that England at last had a 50 stand, converted via the innings' first individual half-centuries into an unbroken 116 in a stumps total of 328 for seven at Chelmsford.
Swann's share was 62 and, on the ground where he made an unbeaten 126 for England Lions against India six years ago, Bresnan's was 55 as they transformed an otherwise unconvincing collective performance.
Kevin Pietersen top-scored among the frontline batsmen, all of whom made double-figures but none more than his 49 after Ravi Bopara had surprisingly invited them to bat in glorious conditions.
Pietersen was the first of three batsmen to come unstuck against unheralded Tom Craddock (three for 67) as England went from 163 for three to 212 for seven.
Their ups and downs included a sore left knee for pencilled-in new Test opener Joe Root and then an eventful encounter between Pietersen and Craddock, which culminated in a caught-and-bowled dismissal at the second attempt - the leg-spinner's first wicket of the summer in first-class cricket.
Root, set to open alongside Alastair Cook in the first Test against Australia at Trent Bridge in 10 days' time, fell for 41 in the over after needing a time-out with the physio, having suffered a painful blow as he pushed forward to Tymal Mills.
He walked off limping, but England later reported no "major concerns" for a player they have nominated as Nick Compton's successor at the start of this year's back-to-back Ashes series.
There appeared to be little consternation either about the well-being of Stuart Broad, left out because of a stiff shoulder.
Pietersen also appeared in good health, on his first-class return for his country after three months out with bone bruising behind his right knee.
- Sports & Recreation
- Kevin Pietersen
- England Lions
- Tom Craddock