Craig Overton's first test wicket was a big one, bowling Steve Smith to dismiss the Australian captain for the first time in the series and back England skipper Joe Root's decision to bowl first in the first day-night Test ever in the Ashes.
Smith's unbeaten 141 in the series-opener in Brisbane last week turned the first Test in Australia's favour, setting up a 10-wicket victory for the hosts.
But he was out for 40 on Saturday and at stumps, on a rain-interrupted day, one in the second Test, Australia was 209-4 from 81 overs. Peter Handscomb was unbeaten on 36 and Shaun Marsh was 20 not out.
Root was the first Test captain since 1982 to decide to bowl first in Adelaide after winning the toss. Then, it was England's Bob Willis, and the visitors lost by eight wickets.
Australia has won both previous day-night Tests at the Adelaide Oval, beating New Zealand in 2015 and South Africa last year, but in both Tests the Australians batted first.
It was slow going in the rain-reduced first session, with only 33 runs scored. England struck twice in each of the next two sessions to restrict the Australians.
Chris Woakes had David Warner (47) caught behind to go with his run out of Cameron Bancroft (10) in the middle session, and he almost picked up another wicket but Mark Stoneman couldn't hold onto a catch at deep backward square after Usman Khawaja top-edged a pull shot when the Australians were on 109-2.
Khawaja went on to post his ninth Test half-century and reached the dinner interval at 53, but didn't add another run before Jimmy Anderson broke through four balls into the night session.
Khawaja (53) chased a swinging ball and was well caught in the gully by James Vince as Australia slipped to 139-3.
Smith was in control, facing 90 balls and engaging in an ongoing verbal joust with Anderson until he was bowled by Overton, who was playing his first Test after coming into the England lineup at the expense of Jake Ball, to make the total 161-4.
England needed one more breakthrough to get into the lower-order but was unable to exploit the extra movement of the night-time conditions in front of more than 55,000 spectators at the venue.
The England players wore black arm-bands in honour of first-class umpire Russell Evans, who died Friday aged 52.