Steve Smith inched closer to another Test ton after reaching an unbeaten 77 on the first day of the second Test against New Zealand.
In the Black Caps' first Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground since 1987, Smith battled with a sublime half-century to help Australia seize control of the proceedings as they finished the opening day at 257-4.
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson's decision to bowl first paid instant dividends when Joe Burns was dismissed in the first over while David Warner fell shortly before lunch.
However, Marnus Labuschagne and Smith's sturdy partnership kept the Kiwi bowlers at bay, though their discipline did not let the run rate hover out of control.
Smith's rare lean run in Tests seems to have finally come to an end with his first fifty-plus score since the Ashes and New Zealand would be wary of his appetite for going big.
"The way they bowled and placed their field, I had to be patient," the master batsman later said.
"It's not the kind of wicket you could go after them. I think we did pretty well today."
New Zealand, who suffered a humiliating 296-run defeat in the first game at Perth, appeared to be on the charge in the first hour of the game.
The returning Trent Boult clattered the stumps of Burns as Tim Southee attacked from the other end with his sharp new-ball swing.
Labuschagne and Warner tried to wrest back the momentum but a Neil Wagner delivery took the outside edge of the left-handed opener for a fighting 41.
The in-form Labuschagne, who sits atop the list of leading Test run-scorers in 2019, seemed set for a ton after getting to his fifth consecutive 50 but perished to a rising Colin de Grandhomme delivery, which jagged back to hit his elbow and deflect onto the stumps.
Smith showcased dogged determination and batted considerably slower than his more fluent knocks.
He steadily built his innings and brought up his 28th fifty off 103 balls.
En route his hefty contribution, Smith reached another landmark as he passed Greg Chappell's tally of 7,110 runs to become Australia's 10th highest run-scorer.
Meanwhile, Matthew Wade renewed his heated rivalry with Wagner before getting out to de Grandhomme for 38.
A fidgety Travis Head then provided company to Smith, having made 25 not out from 56 deliveries by the close of play.