Alastair Cook and Nick Compton led the England fightback on day four of the first Test at the University Oval.
With New Zealand finally declaring on 460-9 - a lead of 293 - in the morning, England were left needing to bat the majority of five and a half remaining sessions to salvage the draw.
However Crompton and Cook smashed a century apiece as they helped England to 234-1 at stumps - a deficit of just 59.
Compton, who had been under increasing pressure following his first-innings duck, went some way to silencing his critics with a maiden Test ton. He brought up the landmark off 259 deliveries and included 10 boundaries - although he survived two run out chances in the 'nervous 90s'.
And Cook weighed in with his 24th Test century, his superb 116 coming off 252 balls and including 15 fours.
Together the opening pair were able to put on 231 for the first wicket - before Trent Boult was finally rewarded for his efforts towards the end of the day with the prized scalp of Cook, BJ Watling holding on to the catch behind the wicket.
Compton (102no), along with Steven Finn, saw off the final few deliveries of the day, though, to ensure the draw remains the most likely result.
Earlier, New Zealand had added 58 runs to their overnight score of 402-7.
Brendon McCullum's share was 30 from just 17 balls, including two sixes off James Anderson and one off Stuart Broad.
However Broad (3-118) finally removed the New Zealand captain for 74, with Anderson taking the catch at midwicket.
Debutant tailender Martin had played his part in frustrating the hosts but his cameo was brought to an end on 41 when he was caught behind by Matt Prior off Finn (1-102).