England batted throughout the third day at Seddon Park to add 199 runs and reach 286-6 in their first innings, still 184 behind New Zealand.
Runs proved hard to come by against a disciplined New Zealand attack, in particular the finger spin duo of Daniel Vettori and Jeetan Patel, but England's batsmen stuck grimly to their task to pass the follow-on target and pave the way for an almost-certain draw in the first Test.
Left-armer Vettori claimed two of the four wickets to fall, denying both Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen half-centuries after battling knocks.
Pietersen's dismissal, caught and bowled for 42 in the evening session to end a vigil of more than three hours, reduced England to 245-6, still 25 short of avoiding the follow on.
Debutant wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose shared an unbroken seventh-wicket stand of 41 with Paul Collingwood to see the tourists safely to the close of a day that will not linger long in the memory of those who witnessed it.
The tone was set during a morning session in which England lost only Michael Vaughan while crawling along at just over two runs an over to reach lunch at 159-3 - still 311 behind - having resumed on 87-2.
Vaughan advanced without alarm from his overnight position of 44 to post an 18th Test half-century, and it was a major surprise when he edged behind off Patel (1-90) for 63 in the 21st over of the day.
The England skipper played inside a regulation off-break that did not turn as much as anticipated and the resulting outside edge was safely pouched by Brendon McCullum behind the stumps.
That ended a third-wicket stand of 44 with Strauss and brought Pietersen to the crease with the stage set for him to raise the tempo.
His second scoring shot was a six back over Patel's head, but that proved a false dawn as the run rate dipped under two-an-over during a turgid afternoon's play.
New Zealand captain Vettori struck with the third delivery after lunch, Strauss (43) bowled driving at a delivery that turned out the footmarks.
That left England at 159-4 and prompted Pietersen and Ian Bell to further tone down the excitement during a fifth-wicket alliance of 44 in 23 overs.
Spin twins Vettori and Patel bowled in tandem with impressive control on a pitch that has offered them - or any other bowler for that matter - little encouragement.
Bell did not appear to be troubled by the bruised hand he sustained on the first day. He defended stoutly to reach 25 from 88 balls before being bowled off his back pad by Kyle Mills (1-61) with the second new ball.
The virtually strokeless Pietersen was then joined by England's last recognised batsman Collingwood, who got into the spirit of things by reaching the tea interval having failed to score off his first 20 deliveries.
After tea, Pietersen's innings of 42 from 131 balls ended when he lunged forward and pushed a return catch that Vettori (2-60) held tumbling to his left.
But Ambrose (23no) joined Collingwood (41no) to see England past the follow on target and onto the close at 286-6.