Michael Yardy held Sussex's batting together with 69 as the LV= County Championship leaders were kept in check by a persevering Surrey attack on the second day of the Division One match at Arundel.
A slow, low pitch inhibited Sussex's stroke-players after Surrey's acting captain Vikram Solanki won the toss. Although several of the home batsmen got starts, only Yardy went past 50.
Chris Tremlett and Tim Linley shared four wickets with the second new ball as Sussex were bowled out for 295 and Surrey's openers Rory Burns and Arun Harinath then came through four overs unscathed to reach one for nought at stumps.
After the loss of the first day to rain the onus was on Sussex to set the tone but it was hard work on a surface that put a premium on the ability to play late and wait to punish the bad ball.
Overcast conditions were another problem for the hosts to overcome and Sussex did well to only lose two wickets before lunch after the start was delayed for 15 minutes following overnight rain.
Luke Wells padded up to a straight one in Jade Dernbach's opening burst and fellow opener Chris Nash, who made 32, drove the first ball of a new spell from Linley in the 23rd over straight to cover as his frustrating tendency to get starts without going on this season continued.
Yardy, pictured, and skipper Ed Joyce raised the tempo after lunch as 72 runs were added in an hour, although the latter, who struck seven boundaries in his 36, could consider himself unlucky when he mis-timed an attempted pull and Linley stuck out his right hand to take a superb return catch.
Matt Prior looked in the mood to cash in on two let-offs. On 18 and then 24 he was dropped in the deep on the leg side, first by Harinath and then by Zander de Bruyn.
The England wicketkeeper batted for nearly two hours for his 41 and, having got himself established, it was a surprise when he top-edged a sweep and Gary Wilson ran across from slip to give left-arm spinner Zafar Ansari a wicket in his first championship appearance of the season.
Ben Brown fell cheaply as Dernbach nipped one back through his defences but Luke Wright, fresh from his career-best 187 against Middlesex last week, found a reliable partner in Chris Jordan, anxious to impress his former county, and they added 59 for the seventh wicket.
Surrey took the new ball as soon as it became available and it paid off as the last four wickets fell in seven overs. Tremlett pushed one across Wright and saw Ricky Ponting hold on at second slip, before the former Australia captain took an even better catch low down to remove Steve Magoffin.
Tremlett trapped James Anyon in front for a duck and Jordan was last out for 41, bowled around his legs by Linley who finished with 4-68 against his former county.