A fighting century by Brendon McCullum [ Images ] helped New Zealand [ Images ] put up a good fight and hang on for another day after quick wickets in the final session looked to have handed the initiative back to India [ Images ] on the fourth day of the second Test at the Rajiv Gandhi [ Images ] International Stadium in Uppal on Monday.
At stumps (after 75 overs), the visitors had made 237 for four, for an overall lead of 115.
It was McCullum's sixth Test hundred, his second against India. He was still batting on 124 and giving him company at the crease was young Kane Williamson [ Images ] on 12.
And the duo, the last recognised pair of New Zealand batsmen, will be crucial to their team's fortunes in the crucial opening session on the final day.
McCullum's 177-ball knock was inclusive of 11 hits to the fence and three huge ones over it and was a trademark innings from someone who had sacriiced his wicketkeeping role to solely focus on his batting in the game's longer format.
In the course of his innings, McCullum also became the 11th New Zealander to surpass 3, 000 Tests runs while his opening wicket stand of 125 with Tim McIntosh (49) was only the second century partnership for the wicket for New Zealand against India since January 2000 - after Lou Vincent and Mark Richardson's [ Images ] 231-run stand at Mohali in 2003 and their seventh overall.Zaheer Khan [ Images ], who had gone off the field with a lower abdominal strain, returned after tea to boost the sagging Indian spirits. However, he was not asked to bowl.
In his absence, Pragyan Ojha [ Images ] led the bowling honours for India with figures of two for 60.
Earlier, Harbhajan Singh [ Images ] (111 not out) scored his second successive hundred continuing his impressive form with the bat.
The offie had made 69 and 115 in the opening Test at Motera helping India draw the game.
The home team eventually wound up for 472, having batted for 143.4 overs, for an overall lead of 122.
India (1st innings): (36 runs, 9.4 overs, 1 wicket)
Resuming at 436 for nine, the home team added another 36 runs to their total.
Harbhajan signaled his intent by coming down the track and hitting Daniel Vettori [ Images ] for a straight six, his sixth of the innings.
He reached the landmark with a single off Southee. And celebrated the same with a six over long-on off the same bowler, his seventh of the innings.
The shot also brought about the 100-run partnership for the final wicket.
However, Vettori trapped S Sreesanth [ Images ] (24) plumb in front soon after to end the Indian innings.
The wicket also helped the New Zealand captain complete a very deserving five-wicket haul.
Harbhajan remained unbeaten on 111, his 116-ball knock inclusive of seven hits to the fence and an equal number over it.
Sreesanth also displayed tremendous fortitude, batting for 71 balls and hitting three boundaries in the course of his innings.
The duo put on a record 105 runs for the final wicket, a partnership which not only frustrated New Zealand but also wrested the initiative back from them - after they had had India on the mat at 367 for nine at one stage.
It was India's best ever partnership for the final wicket against New Zealand, besting the 57-run stand put together by Ramakant Desai and Bishen Singh Bedi [ Images ] at Dunedin way back in 1968.
It was also the third highest partnership for the last wicket for India overall, after the 133 put together by Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan and the 109 runs made by Hemu Adhikari and Ghulam Ahmed.
After 143.4 overs, the home team eventually wound up for 472, for an overall lead of 122.
New Zealand 2nd innings: (37 runs, 13 overs, 0 wicket)
The New Zealand second innings began on a confident note, with first innings centurion McIntosh (18 not out) hitting successive boundaries in Zaheer Khan's first over.
In the next over by Sreesanth, McCullum (15 not out) found his way to the fence with a cracking square drive.
Zaheer left the field in the middle of his fifth over, Ojha completing the over.
And the two openers ensured there was no damage before lunch.
After 13 overs (at lunch), the visitors had made 37 without loss, still trailing by 85 runs.
Post-lunch session: (94 runs, 27 overs, 1 wicket)
Zaheer had a recurring lower abdominal strain and didn't take to the field after lunch. And New Zealand took full advantage of that.
McCullum smashed Harbhajan way over long-off for a maximum to begin the post-lunch session on a confident note.
He then smashed Ojha over long-off for another six before sweeping to the square-leg boundary in the next ball. The successive hits forced the bowler to go over the stumps.
Another boundary between square leg and deep midwicket brought McCullum closer to his half century. And he reached it with a single off Ojha.
It was McCullum's 18th Test fifty, his second of the series.
Meanwhile, McIntosh got inspired by the aggression of his opening partner. The result: a boundary towards midwicket off Harbhajan followed by a huge six over long-on off Ojha.
A single past square-leg by McIntosh (off Harbhajan) brought about the 100-run partnership for the opening wicket.
It was only the second century partnership for the opening wicket for New Zealand against India since January 2000 - after Lou Vincent and Mark Richardson's 231-run stand at Mohali in 2003 and their seventh overall against India.
McCullum then reached 3, 000 Tests runs with a huge six off Harbhajan. He became the 11th New Zealand batsman to achieve the feat.
McIntosh smashed Sreesanth to the cover boundary to inch closer to his half century. However, he failed to reach it when Ojha had him caught by substitute Cheteshwar Pujara [ Images ] at short-leg.
His 49 was a near perfect follow-up to his magnificent 102 in the first innings. The 30-year-old had had a pair at Motera.
McIntosh's 126-ball innings was inclusive of six hits to the fence and one over it
The opening wicket stand yielded the visitors 125 runs, helping them stave off the first innings deficit. And McCullum and Guptill ensured there was no further damage before tea.
After 40 overs (at tea), the visitors had made 131 for one, with a nine-run lead overall.
Post-tea session: (106 runs, 35 overs, 3 wickets)
When play resumed, McCullum employed the sweep shot to a good effect against Harbhajan.
And Martin Guptill [ Images ] (18) made good use of his feet to hit Ojha to the mid-on boundary.
McCullum reached his sixth Test hundred, his second against India, with a boundary off Harbhajan.
However, Ojha struck in the next over, having Guptill caught by Dhoni [ Images ].
The second-wicket partnership yielded New Zealand 49 runs and looked good while it lasted. However, to their misfortune it got broken in the most inappropriate moment.
In a bid to build on the pressure, Dhoni handed the ball over to Sachin Tendulkar [ Images ]. But the Master Blaster, who completed 21 years in Tests on the day, bowled only two overs sans any reward and was taken off.
However, India soon enjoyed their third success, Sreesanth cleaning up a lacklustre Ross Taylor [ Images ] (7) with a beauty of a delivery.
In came Jesse Ryder [ Images ] (20) and he took to Sreesanth with a vengeance, hitting as many as three boundaries off the bowler.
However, in his hurry to score he edged a deliver from part-timer Suresh Raina [ Images ] straight to Dhoni to add to New Zealand's woes.
Williamson hit the first ball he faced through cover point for his first boundary. A Harbhajan delivery was punched through covers to give him his second boundary.
And then a bouncer from Sreesanth crashed into his helmet, thereby requiring medical attention.
However, the 20-year-old did enough to ensure he survived to fight another day with his experienced and illustrious partner.