Australia bundled out India for 109 and batted resolutely to reach 156/4 in reply, giving the home side a taste of their own medicine on a raging turner in Indore on Wednesday.
On a track where the ball spun viciously from the first session, Matt Kuhnemann (5/16) and Nathan Lyon (3/35) engineered India's spectacular collapse in 33.2 overs.
Usman Khawaja then showed how to master those conditions as he made 60 and raised 96 runs for the second wicket with Marnus Labuschagne to put Australia ahead.
The visitors, who are 2-0 behind in the four-Test series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, finished the frenetic opening day 47 runs ahead with six wickets in hand.
Peter Handcomb was batting on seven at the close with Cameron Green on six at the other end.
"I just started playing with my plans and trying to score when I saw a scoring opportunity and respected the good ball when it was there," Khawaja said of his batting approach.
"It's not rocket science to be honest. It was nice to get out there and get a partnership with Marnus."
Beaten inside three days both in Nagpur and Delhi, Australia persisted with a three-pronged spin attack but had to make a couple of changes to their battered squad.
Stand-in skipper Steve Smith introduced spin after five overs of pace bowling by Mitchell Starc and Green, both of whom returned from finger injuries to play their first match of the series.
Regular skipper Pat Cummins is back home to be with his ailing mother, while opener David Warner has returned having fractured his elbow in Delhi.
Indian captain Rohit Sharma was left to rue his decision to bat first and he himself could have been dismissed twice in the first over from Starc, but Australia did not challenge those on-field decisions.
It did not really matter though once the spinners took over.
Kuhnemann removed Rohit (12) stumped and, in his next over, cut short Shubman Gill's (21) promising knock to unhinge India.
Lyon then joined the party, dismissing Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja in his successive overs and India slumped to 45/5 after a frenetic opening hour.
Virat Kohli (22) gamely hung on for a while but once Todd Murphy trapped him lbw, wickets started tumbling and India eventually wilted half an hour into the second session.
After the innings break, India predictably began with spin from both ends and Travis Head (nine) fell lbw to Ravindra Jadeja (4/63) in the second over of the innings.
Labuschagne, who made 31, combined with Khawaja to steady the innings and had luck on his side too.
The batsman was yet to open his account when he dragged the ball onto his stumps but bowler Jadeja was found to have over-stepped.
This was the third time in the series that Jadeja's penchant to bowl no-balls cost him a wicket.
Labuschagne got another reprieve later when India opted against reviewing an lbw decision against him and replays subsequently confirmed the batter would have been dismissed had they done so.
Jadeja eventually removed Labuschagne just before Australia drew level and went on to pick the crucial wickets of Khawaja and Smith (26).