Marlon Samuels's third test century and a fluid knock from captain Darren Sammy helped West Indies put an abject start to the second test with England behind them and rally to finish the first day on 304 for six on Friday.
England dominated the first two sessions, piling the pressure on West Indies' fragile top order who squandered ideal batting conditions to lose their first six wickets for 136.
Samuels, however, steadied the listing West Indies ship and frustrated England's bowlers with dogged resistance while Sammy at times cut loose as the pair put on 168 runs without loss.
Samuels finished the day unbeaten on 107 while Sammy was edging towards his maiden international century with 88 not out.
The tourists made two changes from the side that lost at Lord's, off-spinner Shane Shillingford and seamer Ravi Rampaul coming in for the injured Shannon Gabriel and the dropped Fidel Edwards.
England, looking to take a winning lead in the three-match series, named an unchanged team.
Sammy's decision to bat after winning the toss seemed logical as blazing sunshine and warm temperatures greeted the players at Trent Bridge but his side failed to cash in.
Stuart Broad, who claimed 11 victims when England won the first test at Lord's by five wickets, struck in his second over.
Opener Adrian Barath had yet to score when he was tempted into a prod outside off stump and the ball flew off the edge to James Anderson for a one-handed catch at third slip.
Anderson then took centre stage, removing Kirk Edwards for seven with a delivery that jagged back off a length to rock back the batsman's off stump.
Bowling a good line and length on a slowish pitch offering a little swing and seam movement, Anderson was a constant menace to the West Indies batsmen who never looked at ease.
Switching to round the wicket in the 15th over, he angled in a delivery to Darren Bravo (3) which produced a lazy, loose drive and the ball flew to Graeme Swann at second slip to leave West Indies on 46 for three.
That brought Shivnarine Chanderpaul to the crease much earlier than he would have liked and the world's No.1 ranked batsman was almost out first ball when Anderson's lifting delivery hit the gloves and flew just over the slip cordon.
Opener Kieran Powell had looked reasonably assured as he reached 33 but he became Broad's second victim in the 19th over, edging a good-length ball to Anderson at third slip who held on despite a fumble.
Chanderpaul and Samuels dug in after lunch but Swann broke through Chanderpaul's defences to hand the initiative again to the hosts.
Swann got the ball to turn and it struck Chanderpaul, who had made 46 off 86 balls, on the back leg to have him lbw before Tim Bresnan then uprooted Denesh Ramdin's (1) off stump.
The tourists were in a sorry state but Samuels and Sammy began displayed the resilience West Indies had offered in the second innings at Lord's.