Global-genome nucleotide excision repair (GG-NER) prevents ultraviolet (UV) light-induced skin cancer by removing mutagenic cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs). These lesions are formed abundantly on DNA wrapped around histone octamers in nucleosomes, but a specialized damage sensor known as DDB2 ensures that they are accessed by the XPC initiator of GG-NER activity. We report that DDB2 promotes CPD excision by recruiting the histone methyltransferase ASH1L, which methylates lysine 4 of histone H3. In turn, methylated H3 facilitates the docking of the XPC complex to nucleosomal histone octamers. Consequently, DDB2, ASH1L and XPC proteins co-localize transiently on histone H3-methylated nucleosomes of UV-exposed cells. In the absence of ASH1L, the chromatin binding of XPC is impaired and its ability to recruit downstream GG-NER effectors diminished. Also, ASH1L depletion suppresses CPD excision and confers UV hypersensitivity. These findings show that ASH1L configures chromatin for the effective handoff between damage recognition factors during GG-NER activity.