Not since 2005, when 17 wickets fell at Lord's, had the first day of an Ashes series seen bowlers enjoy so much success.
Fast bowler Finn took two wickets in two balls before England spearhead James Anderson produced a superb delivery to clean bowl Australia captain Michael Clarke, the tourists' best batsman, for nought.
Steven Smith, not even in the original Ashes squad, was 38 not out and Phil Hughes, no longer an opener but batting at number six, seven not out as floodlights pierced the gloom.
"I think we fought back really well in that last session, Jimmy bowled beautifully and I managed to pick up a couple of wickets," Finn told BBC Radio's Test Match Special.
"Jimmy is a special bowler and has been for a long time...The ball that got Michael Clarke was an absolute beauty," Finn added.
Earlier, Australia fast medium-bowler Peter Siddle took five wickets for 50 runs after England captain Alastair Cook won the toss, with Jonathan Trott's 48 the hosts' top score.
Siddle's haul was his latest impressive start to an Ashes series after he took six for 54, including a hat-trick, on the opening day of the 2010/11 series at Brisbane.
"It's been an extraordinary day," said Siddle.
"Once we all settled down in the field, things went our way. Hopefully we can now go on and get some runs.
"I don't think the pitch played a big part in the day's play, it was the cloud cover."
Australia's bowling always looked significantly stronger than their batting, with the key to the tourists' hopes of regaining the Ashes appearing to rest on the performance of their top order.
New Australia coach Darren Lehmann decided to restore Shane Watson to his preferred spot at the top of the order.
But Watson, who in 41 previous Tests had managed just two hundreds, was out in familiar fashion when he pushed forward firmly against Finn without adjusting for away movement and was caught by third slip Joe Root for 13.
Next ball Australia were 19 for two when Ed Cowan, who spent the early part of the season at Trent Bridge, with Nottinghamshire, carelessly chased a wide delivery and was caught at second slip by county colleague Graeme Swann.
Clarke narrowly survived the hat-trick bid but lasted just five more balls, with Anderson producing a near unplayable delivery that angled in and seamed away late to hit off stump.
Australia were now 22 for three and this with regular England new ball bowler Stuart Broad off the field with a shoulder injury suffered while batting.
Opener Chris Rogers, recalled for his second Test five years after his debut, hung on for over an hour.
But he was eventually lbw for 16 to Anderson, bowling from around the wicket and not even a review of umpire Kumar Dharmasena's decision could reprieve the 35-year-old..
Smith, seizing on anything loose, struck five fours and boldly went down the pitch to drive off-spinner Swann for the first six of the match.
England captain Alastair Cook had won the toss and chose to bat beneath grey skies, perhaps hoping the clouds would lift during the innings.
But Cook, who scored a mammoth 766 runs during England's 3-1 series win in 2010/11, was caught behind off James Pattinson for just 13.
Root, in his first Ashes Test and first as an opener, made a promising 30 before he was bowled off-stump by Siddle's excellent outswinging yorker.
England lost star batsman Kevin Pietersen for 14 when he nicked Siddle to Clarke in the slips.
Trott was in good touch and struck nine fours before Siddle induced him to play on.
Ian Bell (25) and Jonny Bairstow (37) both made starts but neither could press on to a major innings.