A fired-up India grabbed three wickets, including the prize scalp of Steve Smith for a duck, to leave Australia in trouble after a gripping opening session on the first day of the second Test Saturday.
Batting after captain Tim Paine won the toss, the hosts were 65 for three at lunch in front of some 30,000 socially-distanced fans, the maximum allowed at the 100,000-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground.
A stubborn Marnus Labuschagne was not out on 26 and Travis Head unbeaten on four as they fended off some top-notch bowling from Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav and Ravi Ashwin on a wicket offering turn and bounce.
After their horror show in the first Test at Adelaide, where they lost by eight wickets and were skittled for 36 in their second innings, India were desperate to start well in Melbourne.
And with Ajinkya Rahane captaining the side in place of Virat Kohli, who has returned home for the birth of his first child, Bumrah ensured they did just that.
With David Warner still injured, Australia went into the clash unchanged, with Joe Burns opening alongside makeshift opener Matthew Wade.
Burns hit an unbeaten 51 in Adelaide to relive some pressure after a long lean spell, but his performance Saturday will once more raise questions over his place in the team.
He looked tentative against Bumrah and played and missed several times before getting a nick to a delivery he should have left.
Rishabh Pant, back behind the stumps in place of Wriddhiman Saha, took the catch and Burns was gone without scoring.
At the other end, Wade had an escape on four when debutant Shubman Gill, in the team for Prithvi Shaw, narrowly missed a catch at slip.
He started finding the gaps as his confidence grew before attempting a big hit off Ashwin, which proved his downfall for 30.
Ravindra Jadeja took the catch, but only just with Gill also underneath it. The pair collided but Jadeja managed to hang on to the ball.
Ashwin then claimed the crucial wicket of Smith, who was undone by an off-break with Cheteshwar Pujara holding a catch at slip after the world’s top batsman faced just eight balls.
India thought they had a fourth wicket on the stroke of lunch, but an lbw decision against Labuschagne was overturned on review.