Josh Westwood may have fallen agonisingly short of a century, but the right-hander has given last-placed Toronto something to bowl at following a difficult first half of the season for the defending champions.
No.3 batsman Westwood, one of two Kookaburras players left from the grand final XI in March, was the last man out when caught just outside the ring for 96 against Waratah-Mayfield at Ron Hill Oval on Saturday.
Toronto posted their highest total since round five, making 238 after being 5-64 and 9-188 earlier on day one.
"Obviously we were gutted for him [Westwood] because he deserved to get a hundred, but we were really happy for him as well because it was a pretty handy innings," Kookaburras captain Corey Brown, who has been standing in for Adrian Chad since November, said.
"We haven't had too many scores this season so everyone is buzzing and it means we have put ourselves in a decent position for day two."
Toronto, who have just one win next to their name in 2019-20, were sent into bat after losing the toss and suffered a collapse of 4-12 in the middle stages.
Westwood's 158-ball dig provided stability and guided partnerships of 33, 47, 40 and lastly 50 with Chad Mackey (19), Matt Somerville (35), debutant Mitch Duck (9) and No.11 Tim Wilson (12 not out) respectively.
"We put on 5-174 for the last five wickets," Brown said.
Waratah skipper Nathan Hudson ended up with 5-61 from 25 overs, interchanging between his regular left-arm orthodox deliveries and seamers.
"Nathan Hudson decided to bowl pace, not spin, and did some damage early," Brown said.
"Later on he was bowling spin to Westy and pace to the tailenders."
In reply the visitors are 1-19, trailling by 219 runs with nine wickets in hand.
All round-nine Newcastle District Cricket Association first grade fixtures had rain-delayed starts on Saturday, but only Toronto and Waratah played the full compliment of 90 overs.
Elsewhere, as competition resumed from the Christmas break, University managed to secure first-innings points against Belmont at Cahill Oval with Luke Bird taking 4-18. The Sea Dragons finished 6-120 and have a lead of 31 runs after dismissing the hosts for 89.
Wallsend are well poised against Merewether in their top-four battle at Townson Oval after removing the home side for 156.
Second-placed Hamilton-Wickham struck late at Lynn Oval, leaving Stockton and Northern Districts 3-6 from 10 overs after the visitors were bowled out for 140. Seagulls paceman Lucas Sargent claimed figures of 6-23.
Frontrunners Wests will resume at 2-39 at Pasterfield Sports Complex, needing a further 70 runs to pass Cardiff-Boolaroo's 108.
And at stumps City finished 7-166, steered by 52 to returning Jesse Major, but have eight overs left to bat on day two against Charlestown at Kahibah Oval.
MEANWHILE, NSW trio Kerrod White, Scott Burkinshaw and Naomi McDonald were named in Australian Country Championships (ACC) merit teams in Toowoomba over the weekend.
South Coast's White, the second highest run scorer at the nine-day carnival, and Central Coast's Burkinshaw, who became the Bush Blues' leading wicket taker of all time with 64, made the men's XI.
Bush Breakers opener McDonald, from the North Coast, was picked in the women's XI after posting the most runs at the 2020 tournament.
Also, NSW Country wicketkeeper Tom Groth, who became the most capped ACC player ever this week and eventually reached 86 matches, topped the dismissals with 19.
In Saturday's finals, Victoria (men) and East Asia Pacific (women) clinched the titles.