Manchester: Ollie Pope's classy 91 not out gave England the upper hand on the first day of the deciding Test against West Indies at Emirates Old Trafford.
Pope added an unbroken 136 with Jos Buttler, who is on 56, to push England to 258-4, taking the initiative for the hosts in the evening gloom following two sessions of back-and-forth.
In reducing England to 122-4, West Indies had the chance to seize control after winning the toss and choosing to field for the second time in as many weeks.
The opportunity was accentuated by England's decision to cover for Ben Stokes being unable to bowl by omitting batsman Zak Crawley in favour of an extra paceman - Chris Woakes at seven gave a lengthy look to the lower order.
But Pope and Buttler rattled along, and Pope was only denied a century before the close by bad light ending play with 4.2 overs left.
They have left England as favourites to win this Test, the three-match series, and deny West Indies a first success in this country since 1988.
As they bid to regain the Wisden Trophy - set to be replaced by a prize named after legendary pair Sir Ian Botham and Sir Viv Richards - they will have to be mindful of the Manchester weather.
Rain is forecast for the rest of the match, with days two and four looking at most risk.
Pope and Buttler were under separate pressures to deliver - Pope after being preferred to Crawley, wicketkeeper Buttler without a half-century in his previous seven Tests.
They did so in a wonderful partnership that bumped along with busy running between the wickets and regular peppering of the boundary.
The only moment of alarm was when Pope, on 30, top-edged a pull off Shannon Gabriel that just evaded the dive of Roston Chase running towards deep mid-wicket.
Reprieved, Pope played elegant off-drives, dabs to third man and clips off his toes on the way to his highest score in a Test in England.
Buttler, feeling his way, was careful in having only three from 31 balls. When he flicked the switch, he lofted off-spinner Rahkeem Cornwall for two leg-side sixes in the same over and followed up with rubber-wristed drives through the covers.
Even the second new ball could not halt Pope, who responded with a glorious on-drive off Kemar Roach, and he is primed for a second Test century at the age of only 22.
West Indies' decision to field paid immediate dividends when Dom Sibley played across Roach to be lbw to the sixth ball of the match.
The sight of Gabriel hobbling off in the eighth over would have been particularly alarming given the decision to drop a pace bowler in favour of Cornwall, but Gabriel returned to play a full part and the tourists worked their way through the top order.
Joe Root was brilliantly run out by Chase's pick-up and throw and Stokes was bowled through the gate after being softened up by Roach's short balls.
And, when Cornwall took a superb reaction catch at slip to dismiss Rory Burns for 57, West Indies were primed to take charge.