Alastair Cook and Nick Compton made some amends for England's poor first innings by grinding out a 231-run partnership to eat deep into New Zealand's lead of 293 on the fourth day of the first Test on Saturday.
Captain Cook was dismissed just before stumps for 116, leaving Compton to resume on the fifth and final day of the match on 102 not out along with nightwatchman Steven Finn, who had yet to score.
England ended the day on 234 for one, a deficit of just 59 runs, after applying themselves far more diligently than in their first innings, when they were bundled out for 167.
Cook and Compton's obdurate stand on Saturday not only edged the visitors closer to safety but sent a message to New Zealand's young pace attack that the rest of the three-match series would be much more of a Test of their abilities.
Mindful they needed to bat time to at least save the Test, both openers played cautiously and a potential run out when Compton was on 94 was the only chance in their record first wicket stand before Cook's dismissal.
Cook and Compton's effort bettered the 223 runs put on by Graeme Fowler and Chris Tavare in 1984 as the highest England opening partnership in a Test against New Zealand.
Cook brought up his 24th Test century with a paddle around the corner off Bruce Martin for his 13th boundary, prompting a standing ovation from the crowd.
Just as the partnership looked set to remain intact until the close of play, though, Trent Boult managed to catch the outside edge of Cook's bat and the ball carried to wicketkeeper BJ Watling.
The dismissal did not unsettle Compton, who had been under pressure for his place in the side after failing to convert good starts on England's recent tour of India.
The 29-year-old brought up his maiden Test century two balls later with a push into the leg side for a single and emitted a roar of delight as he cantered down the wicket.
"The biggest relief of my life to be honest," Compton told reporters. "To get to this moment was something special, I never thought perhaps a year ago, or a couple of months ago, that I'd be sitting here with a hundred.
"I kept believing, but its been a long time. I'm just delighted to be here. It's a strange feeling."
The patience that England showed had frustrated New Zealand's bowlers, Boult said afterwards, though he also praised the pair for they way they held out, shaking hands with Compton in between post-match media conferences.
"It was frustrating not to grab a few more but that's the way it goes," Boult said. "They were tough conditions. It was a flat wicket and cold with not much swing or any help from the wicket.
"They just batted well. They took it pretty simply, left the ball well.
"I thought we built pressure in periods, but let them off at times too. They were going at a relatively slow scoring rate.
"We just thought we had to build pressure. It was nice to get one wicket; a few more would've been good."
England (first innings) 167 all out
New Zealand first innings (overnight 402-7): P. Fulton c Prior b Anderson 55, H. Rutherford c sub b Anderson 171, K. Williamson b Panesar 24, R. Taylor c Trott b Anderson 31, D. Brownlie b Anderson 27, B. McCullum c Anderson b Broad 74, BJ Watling b Broad 0, T. Southee b Broad 25, B. Martin c Prior b Finn 41, N. Wagner n.o. 4;
Total (for nine wickets declared): 460;
Fall of wickets: 1-158 2-249 3-267 4-310 5-321 6-326 7-370, 8-447 9-460;
Bowling: J. Anderson 33-2-137-4, S. Finn 26.4-3-102-1, S. Broad 28-3-118-3, M. Panesar 22-2-83-1, J. Trott 2-0-4-0, J. Root 5-1-8-0
England second innings: A. Cook c Watling b Boult 116, N. Compton n.o. 102, S. Finn n.o. 0;
Total (for one wicket, 87 overs): 234;
Bowling: T. Southee 18-2-48-0 (nb-1), T. Boult 19-5-33-1, N. Wagner 20-4-64-0, B. Martin 25-7-61-0, K. Williamson 5-1-13-0.
Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images