Together the pair had put on an unbroken 81 for the fifth wicket.
Vijay's time spent studying England spearhead James Anderson had clearly been beneficial and the opener also thanked India's former England coach Duncan Fletcher for his advice.
"I've worked a lot with videos of James Anderson," Vijay told Sky Sports.
"The first 15 minutes are the toughest thing as an opener. I wanted to play straight and late.
"Duncan Fletcher has helped a lot because he knows how things work in these conditions. We were working for two weeks before we came out here."
India, after Dhoni won the toss on a sunny day, overcame the early loss of Shikhar Dhawan to be 106 for one at lunch on a placid pitch.
But England then took two wickets for one run to reduce India to 107 for three and the run-rate slowed significantly with Stuart Broad (one for 26 in 19 overs) particularly miserly on his Nottinghamshire home ground.
Vijay was into his stride right from the first over, which saw him strike Anderson for three fours in as many balls.
But Anderson, who has taken more Test wickets at Trent Bridge than any other bowler, did claim his 50th scalp on the ground when he found Dhawan's outside edge and wicketkeeper Matt Prior, passed fit after a minor thigh injury, took an excellent diving left-handed catch in front of England captain Alastair Cook at first slip.
- Vijay's quick start -
Such was Vijay's touch, his first fifty featured 44 runs in boundaries.
But Anderson and new-ball partner Broad eventually checked India's progress.
Cheteshwar Pujara fell for his lunch score of 38 to a well-set trap when he chipped an Anderson delivery that 'stopped' to silly mid-on, where Ian Bell took a superb one-handed catch diving full-stretch to his right.
Pujara's dismissal was also a tactical triumph for Cook, much criticised for his 'conservative' approach in the field during England's recent run of eight Tests without a win.
Rising star Virat Kohli, on one, then carelessly opened the face against Broad and guided the ball low to Bell, now at second slip.
England, gaining a measure of reverse swing, restricted India to a mere 18 runs in the first 14 overs after lunch.
But with Cook unwilling to deploy part-time off-spinner Moeen Ali at length, Vijay made the most of any opportunities he was given by England's seam quartet.
At tea, India were 177 for three, with Vijay 92 not out and Ajinkya Rahane unbeaten on 32.
But Rahane, as happened to Pujara, failed to add to his interval score when he fell in the first over after tea thanks to another smart ploy from Cook.
Rahane, unsettled by an earlier short ball, tried to pull Liam Plunkett but only made contact with the toe of the bat, the ball deflecting to Cook, who grabbed the catch at silly point -- not an obvious position for a fast bowler such as Plunkett.
Vijay spent 13 balls on 99 before, having demonstrated composure worthy of team mentor and retired India batting great Rahul Dravid, a scampered single off Anderson saw the 30-year-old to his fourth hundred in 23 Tests and first outside India.
His first fifty had taken just 68 balls, his second 146.
Vijay, however, later advanced down the pitch to drive Ali for six over long-off, while Dhoni upped the tempo with a 64-ball fifty including five fours.
Vijay had made 110 when Plunkett appealed for lbw.
But England, with the Decision Review System not in use this series because of Indian objections, had to accept
Australian umpire Bruce Oxenford's not out decision, which replays suggested would still have stood even under DRS.