Debutant wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk and former captain Daniel Vettori staged a middle order fightback to help New Zealand establish a slim first innings lead at the close of play on the second day of the first Test against South Africa on Thursday.
The South African-born Van Wyk (36) combined with Vettori (46) in a 53-run partnership and then with bowler Doug Bracewell (25) for 41 runs as the hosts made 243 for nine in reply to South Africa's 238 on a sun-drenched University Oval in Dunedin.
New Zealand, however, squandered an opportunity to build a substantial advantage when they lost four wickets in the middle session and then two more in one Vernon Philander over just before the close after South Africa took the new ball.
Brendon McCullum (48) and captain Ross Taylor (44) had been subjected to a torrid spell of hostile, controlled pace bowling with Taylor hit three times by Morne Morkel, but looked well placed to build a comprehensive partnership before tea.
McCullum, however, top-edged a delivery from leg-spinner Imran Tahir to be caught and bowled before Taylor fell 10 runs later when was caught by wicketkeeper Mark Boucher off Morkel.
Kane Williamson had also started to look comfortable before he feathered a catch to Boucher off Philander to leave New Zealand floundering at 135-5 and in danger of a first innings deficit before Vettori and van Wyk buckled down.
The 32-year-old van Wyck, who moved to New Zealand in 2006, was caught by Graeme Smith in the slips off Philander, who repeated the dismissal two balls later with Tim Southee falling for a duck before Trent Boult (eight not out) and Chris Martin (nought) saw the hosts through to the close.
Philander had figures of 4-50 from 17 overs, while Tahir impressed with his flight, control and variation to finish the day with 1-55 from 24 overs but could be a factor in the final innings.
The visitors had earlier been bowled out midway through the first session after Martin had run through their middle order on Wednesday and he finished with 4-56.
If South Africa sweep the series 3-0, they will take over the world number one Test ranking from England.
South Africa first innings (overnight 191-7)
G. Smith c Nicol b Martin 53
A. Petersen lbw b Boult 11
H. Amla c Taylor b Vettori 62
J. Kallis c Taylor b Martin 0
AB de Villiers lbw b Martin 0
J. Rudolph c Boult b Bracewell 52
M. Boucher run out 4
D. Steyn c Taylor b Bracewell 9
V. Philander c Williamson b Martin 22
M. Morkel not out 13
I. Tahir run out 10
Extras (lb-1 nb-1) 2
Total (all out, 68.2 overs) 238
Fall of wickets: 1-34, 2-86, 3-90, 4-90, 5-156, 6-161, 7-179, 8-214. 9-222
Bowling: Martin 18-2-56-4, Southee 10-1-40-0, Boult 8-0-58-1, Bracewell 16.2-2-52-2 (nb-1), Vettori 15-4-31-1, Nicol 1-1-0-0
New Zealand first innings
R. Nicol c Smith b Philander 6
M. Guptill b Morkel 16
B. McCullum c&b Tahir 48
R. Taylor c Boucher b Morkel 44
K. Williamson c Boucher b Philander 11
D. Vettori c&b Kallis 46
K. van Wyk c Smith b Philander 36
D. Bracewell b Steyn 25
T. Southee c Smith b Philander 0
T. Boult not out 8
C. Martin not out 0
Extras (lb-3) 3
Total (for nine wickets, 86 overs) 243
Fall of wickets: 1-7, 2-41, 3-106, 4-116, 5-135, 6-188, 7-229, 8-229, 9-239
Bowling: Steyn 19-4-71-1, Philander 17-1-50-4, Morkel 18-5-52-2, Tahir 24-6-55-1, Kallis 8-2-12-1.