A pitch of uneven bounce resulted in 16 wickets falling to prompt the obligatory call to Lord's as bad light ended play with 13 overs remaining.
At that point Durham, nine points ahead of Derbyshire before the start of play, were struggling on 109 for 6 in reply to the visitors' 254. Only Jon Lewis (36) and Mike Foster (37 not out) reached double figures for the home side.
After Derbyshire were put in by Durham Adams became the second Derbyshire player in successive matches to score 100 before lunch as he followed the example set by Adrian Rollins at Cheltenham last week.
Adams reached his second championship century of the season by hitting James Boiling over long-off for his only six, before he fell for 107, pulling the first ball he faced after lunch to long leg. Durham's bowling fell apart under Adams' onslaught and they took time to recover as Vince Clarke and Matthew Vandrau put on 60 in 14 overs for the fifth wicket.
The variable bounce was underlined as Melvyn Betts produced a lifter to remove Karl Krikken and a shooter two balls later to bowl Phil DeFreitas as the last six wickets went down for 22 runs in six overs. Simon Brown, who became the first player to make 100 first-class appearances for Durham, finished with 4 for 63.
Paul Taylor collected his third five-wicket haul of the season as Northamptonshire reduced Yorkshire to 163 for 9 on a shortened first day at Headingley.
He exploited helpful conditions in which the ball swung, moved off the seam and occasionally bounced disconcertingly to finish with figures of 5 for 42 in 15 overs. The batsmen were also handicapped by bad light and rain which cut 53 overs out of the day.
Craig White and Bradley Parker threatened some resistance in a fifth- wicket stand which yielded 48 in 11 overs, but Yorkshire surrendered too many wickets to errors of judgement.
Parker, whose 26 was the the top score, was a notable exception in that he was bowled by a delivery from Scott Boswell which kept wickedly low.
Yorkshire, who opted to bat after winning the toss, were grateful to take advantage of the poor light which brought an early finish.
The home side are without the services of Peter Hartley, who goes into hospital at the weekend for a hernia operation. His place was taken by Alex Morris because their preferred replacement, Ryan Sidebottom, is on duty with the England Under-19 side.
The Australian captain Mark Taylor has been forced to miss Australia's four-day game against Somerset today with a recurring back injury.
Taylor has been advised by the team physiotherapist, Errol Alcott, to take a break from cricket and spend some time with his family. According to Alcott, the injury is "minor" and Taylor will be fit in time for the fifth Test at Trent Bridge next Thursday.