After winning the toss and opting to bat, Durham opener Sean Dickson continued his prolific form with a third century of the season.
New England captain Ben Stokes watched on admiringly from the dressing room balcony as Dickson established a solid platform for his side.
The South African reached his century off 179 balls with one six and 14 fours as Durham took full advantage of a wicket offering little encouragement to the bowlers.
Stokes was due to bat at number six in his first appearance since his England role was confirmed last month.
But he was forced to sit with his pads on for much of the final session as Durham captain Scott Borthwick (80no) and David Bedingham (69no) cashed in on an attack that have enjoyed better days.
For the Pears, left armer, Ben Gibbon, who has been working on a building side for the past three years, pickled up the wicket of Keegan Petersen (50) on his first class debut.
“It was a big day for me, a first class debut but as soon as I settled into an over or two, I was alright,” said Gibbon. “To get that first wicket, and just to play, my first class debut, is a dream come true really.”
Ed Barnard bagged the other two Durham wickets.