Michael Clarke threatened Jimmy Anderson with physical harm and Alastair Cook attacked David Warner's behaviour as the Ashes exploded into open hostility.
Australia's emphatic 381-run win at The Gabba puts them in a position of strength for the remaining four Tests of the series but the rancour that characterised the final moments of the first match is likely to set the tone for the series.
Both captains played down that incident, but Cook, the England skipper, was angry with Warner, who had suggested in a press conference that Jonathan Trott, dismissed twice by Johnson, was scared of the Australian's speed.
"I think the comment by David Warner was pretty disrespectful to any professional cricketer," said Cook.
"Will any action be taken? I don't know what might happen about what he said.
"When you play each other for quite a few games in a row (10 Tests in six months) the niggles do increase, but it is competitive cricket.
"There are always going to be a few battles and a few words. That's the way people want to watch cricket being played, so what happens on the pitch is fine."
Conceding that England had been outplayed, Cook added: "On the pitch it's pretty much a war anyway so there's always going to be a few battles and a few words. That's the way people want to watch the game being played, tough hard cricket, which on the pitch is fine."
The antipathy between the teams seems clear, but Clarke insisted that mutual respect remained – a sentiment Cook did not quite express.
"We have the ultimate respect for them as a cricket team," Clarke said.
"There are plenty of things said on the field that you don't overhear on the stump mic. That's part and parcel of the game.
"I can only talk for our team, but there's not one player on the England team that anyone has a personal vendetta against, or anybody disrespects as a cricketer.
"David Warner, Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson really love that competitive battle. They love the opposition talking to them or having a crack back at the opposition: that is what drives them. Jimmy Anderson has made it clear that he likes that battle as well."
Johnson earned the man-of-the-match award for a fearsome display of fast bowling which appeared to spook Trott, in particular. The Australian added: "I'll keep doing it. It's working."
he was not alone. Ryan Harris also worked up a head of steam and meted out the short stuff regularly.
England were unquestionably rattled because they did not know how to cope. Down the years fast, accurate bouncers have tended to have their way. If they could, the tourists would reply in kind, but it seems beyond them. They picked three giant fast bowlers for this tour, but they do not have the sheer velocity and awkward angles of Johnson.