Skipper Kane Williamson and opener Tom Latham both scored half centuries as New Zealand closed in on Sri Lanka's modest first-innings total of 282 at tea on day two of the first Test in Wellington on Sunday.
New Zealand were 175 for one at the break, with Williamson unbeaten on 71 and Latham 57 not out.
Williamson made a statement of positive intent when he smashed successive boundaries off the first three balls he faced, giving Lahiru Kumara no chance to find his range after lunch.
Kumara responded with a maiden over but Williamson continued to pick off any loose deliveries as the Black Caps look for a big first-innings lead.
The pitch flattened out after troubling the tourists' top-order batsmen early on the opening day and offered little encouragement to Sri Lanka's bowlers.
Suranga Lakmal extracted some bounce to give Latham a few uncomfortable moments on the way to his 16th Test half century, but Sri Lanka's attack was unable to exert sustained pressure.
Latham patiently grafted his 50 off 123 balls, while Williamson took only 45 deliveries to notch his 29th Test half century, bringing it up with a crisply-hit boundary.
The Black Caps' only loss was a self-inflicted wound by Jeet Raval, who rashly tried to pull Kumara's rising ball just before lunch but instead edged to the wicketkeeper.
Earlier, Sri Lanka added just seven to their overnight batting total before Tim Southee coaxed an inside edge off Kumara to claim a six-wicket innings haul.
Kumara's departure for a duck left Dickwella stranded on 80 not out after he led a rearguard action for Sri Lanka.
Angelo Mathews and Dimuth Karunaratne were the only other batsmen to offer any meaningful resistance, notching 83 and 79 respectively and forging a 133-run partnership.
Sri Lanka, ranked sixth in the world, have lost their last five Tests against New Zealand and suffered a 3-0 home Test series whitewash against England last month.
They have faced upheaval in their coaching and selection ranks in recent weeks and arrived in New Zealand low on confidence.
In contrast, the fourth-ranked Black Caps entered the two-match contest buoyed by their first away Test series win over Pakistan in 49 years.