India's hopes of securing a series whitewash over Australia were boosted on day one of the fourth Test as the tourists laboured to 231-8 in Delhi.
Shane Watson opted to bat after winning his first toss in charge of the Test team and things seemed to be going smoothly for the stand-in skipper when his side reached 71-1.
Ed Cowan and Phil Hughes combined in a 67-run partnership after David Warner had fallen to the 10th ball of the morning without troubling the scorers.
However, Australia's fortunes began to take a nosedive once Hughes became Ishant Sharma's second wicket of the day, chopping onto his stumps to depart for 45.
That wicket meant the arrival of Watson, back in the line-up having been one of four players suspended for the third Test for disciplinary reasons, to the crease and he steered his team to lunch without any further damage.
But the returning all-rounder - leading the side in the absence of the injured Michael Clarke - departed for 17 early in the afternoon session, smartly stumped off the bowling of Ravindra Jadeja (2-34) by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Matthew Wade followed soon after for two to Ashwin who also accounted for Mitchell Johnson, another of the suspended quartet to be recalled, meaning the score had gone from 106-2 at one stage to 136-7.
Having seen much of the carnage unfold from the other end, Steve Smith attempted to lead a lower-order fightback with a valiant knock of 46 that included three fours and two sixes.
He put on 53 with No 10 Peter Siddle before becoming Ashwin's fourth victim, caught by India debutant Ajinkya Rahane just shy of what would have been a well deserved half-century.
Siddle, though, continued the recovery mission; by the close he was unbeaten on 47, including hitting four boundaries in the process, alongside James Pattinson, who had 11 to his name.