The purpose of this study was to evaluate if a low-shrinking composite can improve the bonding effectiveness of adhesives in highly constrained conditions. A low-shrinking composite ('els-extra low shrinkage', Saremco) was bonded in standardized occlusal Class-I cavities using a three-step ('cmf', Saremco) and a two-step etch-and-rinse adhesive ('XP Bond', Dentsply). Both adhesives were also combined with a conventional composite ('Z100', 3M ESPE). Half of the restored cavities were exposed to 20,000 thermo-cycles. 3-way ANOVA revealed a significant effect for the factors 'adhesive' and 'composite' (both p<0.0001), but not for 'thermo-cycling' (p=0.994). Significantly higher bond strengths were recorded for the low-shrinking composite than for the control composite, using either of the adhesives. The low-shrinking composite in combination with the three-step etch-and-rinse adhesive performed best in the high C-factor Class-I cavity. The two-step etch-and-rinse adhesive suffered strongly from polymerization-shrinkage stress, which could be partially restored by using the low-shrinking composite.