Tim Ambrose and Paul Collingwood rescued England's innings after New Zealand's Jacob Oram had inspired a top-order collapse to ensure the second Test was evenly poised at the end of the first day's play on Thursday.
Ambrose and Collingwood came together with their side teetering at 136 for five during the middle session to combine for an unbeaten 155-run sixth wicket partnership and guide England to 291 for five at the end of play.
"It's a great partnership and has put us in a strong position and we needed it because we were under pressure," England coach Peter Moores told reporters.
"We have work to do, but it has certainly redressed the balance on a wicket that has done a bit all day."
Oram had produced a tight spell that consisted of nine overs, four maidens, six runs and two wickets after the lunch break and Kyle Mills, Mark Gillespie and Chris Martin grabbed a wicket each to seize control of the match at tea.
Ambrose (97 not out) and Collingwood (48 not out), however, fought back after tea. Wicketkeeper Ambrose, playing his second Test, notched his second half century and highest Test score.
Australian-born Ambrose scored 55 in the first innings of the first Test at Hamilton's Seddon Park.
The 25-year-old was the more aggressive of the pair, striking 15 boundaries and two sixes off 137 balls.
He pushed to complete his maiden test century in the final over of the day, slashing at three deliveries from Oram, only just to miss each and frustrate the New Zealand slip cordon.
Collingwood was more circumspect but still managed six boundaries and was two runs short of his ninth test half-century.
"That middle session we were right on course but they got away in that final session. Ambrose especially played very well," said Oram.
"In the last session we gave them too many four-balls to hit and released the pressure, and a bit of confidence started flowing for them."
England had begun the day well with captain Michael Vaughan (32) and Alastair Cook (44) putting on 79 runs and batting through until the lunch break after Daniel Vettori had won the toss and put them in on a green-tinged Basin Reserve wicket.
Oram, however, struck straight after lunch when he bowled Vaughan on the second ball, and sparked a collapse that saw England slump to 136 for five.
Andrew Strauss (eight), and Ian Bell (11), who survived two dropped catches, both looked uncomfortable in the middle, while Kevin Pietersen scored 31 before he was dismissed just before the tea break to leave England in desperate trouble.
Ambrose and Collingwood, however, ensured England ended the day on even terms with their second productive partnership of the series. They had a 90-run partnership in the first innings of the first Test.
New Zealand won the first Test by 189 runs.