Australia take control on hard-fought day
Australia 505 and 70 for 1 (Burns 27*) need another 131 runs to beat New Zealand 370 and 335 (Williamson 97, Henry 66, Watling 46, Bird 5-59)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
New Zealand delayed, annoyed and even frustrated Australia into some of the ugliest scenes of the summer. Yet Steven Smith's men persisted through it all, and by day's end were a mere 131 runs away from claiming victory in Christchurch and the No. 1 Test ranking.
For all the hosts' fighting qualities, whether it was Kane Williamson's dogged 97, Corey Anderson's self-denial or the common sense rearguard of BJ Watling and Matt Henry, Australia always stayed ahead of the game. For this they can thank Jackson Bird, who summoned his first five-wicket haul in Tests, and also the support of James Pattinson, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Marsh.
While David Warner nibbled down the leg side to complete the most underwhelming Test series of his career, Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja fought through to the close against another round of short balls from Neil Wagner.
At one point, slip was the only man on the off side, making Wagner's attack obvious. But the second-wicket stand came closest to being broken when Khawaja nearly edged an attempted drive onto the stumps in Anderson's final over of the day.
Australia's efforts in the field had been obvious, and often near the edge of exasperation. Tempers had simmered during a long stand between Williamson and Anderson, before Bird struck once with the old ball then twice with the new to take the visitors closer to a fourth-innings chase. But Watling and Henry played with good sense to add 118 and ensure New Zealand have something to defend.
Pattinson and Hazlewood again bowled with pace, direction and reverse swing in the first hour and went exceptionally close to dismissing both batsmen more than once. Hazlewood's last appeal - and Australia's last referral - moments before lunch drew another denial and considerable frustration from Smith's men.
There was self-recrimination, too, when Marsh dropped Anderson at the gully, and the tourists went to the interval clearly angry at not being able to dislodge the overnight pair. They were more patient when faced by Watling and Henry, eventually rewarded when Pattinson had Watling caught on the leg side and Henry was bowled by Bird.
Old-ball swing had been key to Australia claiming four wickets on the third evening, and it was again evident as Pattinson and Hazlewood resumed their barrage. Williamson and then Anderson were both subjects of concerted lbw appeals, but on each occasion DRS replays showed contact with the bat first.
Anderson's escape was queried by the Australians, but was quickly followed by a ball angled across and a sliced drive that burst through Marsh's hands. By the standard set in this match, including Marsh's own unrewarded catch off a no-ball on day one, it was a bad miss.
Further close calls followed: Williamson edged Hazlewood the merest fraction short of Peter Nevill's gloves, and right on lunch the bowler appeared to strike New Zealand's No. 3 in front with a swinging yorker from around the wicket.
The Australians appealed vehemently and reviewed instantly, but HotSpot replays picked up the faintest inside edge from Williamson before the ball struck his pad, leaving Smith's men to angrily confront the on-field umpire and express their surprise.
Through all this Williamson and Anderson remained, giving New Zealand something of a foothold in the match against increasingly feverish opponents. They remained unhappy until Bird coaxed Anderson into dragging on in the 79th over of the innings, a wicket that opened up an end for the second new ball.
Williamson was on 97 when a hint of seam movement with the fresh ball resulted in an edge onto the stumps and, in the same over, Tim Southee snicked to Smith in the slips. Australia sensed they were close to sealing the match, but Watling and Henry had other ideas.
Unfussy but positive, they worked the ball around with calculated moments of aggression to build the lead, not offering a chance in the process. By the interval their union was New Zealand's best for the eighth wicket in a decade, once more leaving Smith to ponder his options.
Pattinson tightened up Watling after the break and was rewarded when he flicked the lowest of catches to Joe Burns in front of square leg. Bird found a way through Henry and Trent Boult offered up a skier to give the adopted Tasmanian a Test five-for - vindication of the selectors' decision to recall him for the first time in three years.
A target of 201 was tricky, but Warner and Burns began briskly, quickly whittling down the equation and easing any nerves. Though Warner fell to Wagner, Khawaja was rapidly into his stride, while Burns batted as if to continue his first innings. New Zealand now have only the faintest hope, Australia both eyes on the Test Championship Mace.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig