Kane Williamson scored an unbeaten century to deny South Africa and a rampaging Morne Morkel victory in the third and final Test.
Set 389 to win, New Zealand were indebted to Williamson, who, with 102 not out from 228 balls, was the only frontline batsman to pass 20.
Williamson's resistance kept out Morkel, who took all of the wickets to fall in New Zealand's 200-6.
And his contribution was all the more valuable in the absence of captain Ross Taylor, who was unavailable to bat after suffering a broken arm in the first innings - but it did not stop his side losing the series 1-0.
Williamson's vigil came after South Africa had declared on 189-3 an hour before lunch on the back of quickfire runs from AB de Villiers and JP Duminy.
Resuming on 75-0, the Proteas lost Alviro Peterson in the first over of the day, run out for 39 by Doug Bracewell, who then took a fine diving catch to remove Graeme Smith for 41 off Daniel Vettori.
But de Villiers (68) and JP Duminy (33no) went on the hunt for quick runs and added 83 from 50 balls before de Villiers fell.
De Villiers was the driving force, but Duminy chipped in with three sixes.
When de Villiers sliced a catch to Williamson off Bracewell, the Proteas put New Zealand back in and immediately had them in trouble.
Daniel Flynn gloved a catch behind off Morkel, who then trapped Brendon McCullum leg before, despite a review from the batsman.
Both went without scoring a run, leaving Martin Guptill and Williamson to dig in before lunch.
But Guptill fell soon after the resumption, caught at gully for 18 by Jacques Rudolph.
Williamson rode his luck, surviving a number of dropped catches, while at the other end Dean Brownlie showed some intent by cracking three fours off one Marchant de Lange over.
The pair had just posted their 50 partnership when Morkel bowled Brownlie with a yorker for 15, and he repeated the trick next ball to dismiss Vettori and complete his five-wicket haul.
Williamson was New Zealand's last hope of salvaging a draw - and he combined with Kruger van Wijk (39) to add 80 for the sixth wicket after tea.
When Van Wijk was caught and bowled by Morkel, Bracewell took over, while Williamson inched towards a century which he brought up, appropriately, with a single.
His century contained nine boundaries and sealed a draw which was tough on South Africa and in particular Morkel, who finished with 6-23 off 16.4 overs.