Sustained pressure with the ball and a brave counter-attacking innings from Ross Taylor meant that New Zealand continued to hold a slight advantage at Lord's, despite James Anderson's best efforts to wrestle back control with a high-class bowling display during which he claimed his 300th Test wicket.
After restricting England to 232 - scored at barely two-an-over throughout and with the last six wickets falling for 40 - New Zealand faced early problems themselves at 7 for 2 against a fired-up Anderson. By the close, which came early due to bad light, they had recovered to be 79 behind, although the loss of Dean Brownlie shortly before the end evened the scales a touch.
Anderson had ended the series in New Zealand on 298 scalps and soon began closing in on his landmark when he had Hamish Rutherford well caught at first slip in the first over. Then, in his fourth over, he found the edge of Peter Fulton's bat and the catch was held, low down, at second slip by his close friend Graeme Swann to become the fourth Englishman to the 300 mark. It was 20 years after the previous, Ian Botham in 1984, and almost 10 years to the day since his Test debut on this ground, against Zimbabwe, in 2003. Overall, he was the 26th bowler to reach the milestone in Test cricket; for England the others are Fred Trueman (307), Bob Willis (325) and Botham (383).
Anderson, though, lacked support from his fellow quicks until Steven Finn, now back on his longer run, pitched the ball fuller to win an lbw against Brownlie but only after using the DRS to overturn Steve Davis' initial not-out decision.
Either side of tea, England were poor and New Zealand responded superbly to their early difficulties. In Taylor, they had the first batsman in the match to try and put some pressure back on the bowlers with a fifty that came off 49 balls. His innings would conclude with 13 boundaries: England hit 21 through their entire 112 overs.
Any error in line or length - of which there were both from Finn and Stuart Broad - was punished, but Taylor also made some calculated judgements to attack deliveries that others may have played more cautiously. With Alastair Cook knowing that he did not have a mountain of runs on the board, and unable to keep Anderson going forever, the pressure was quickly reapplied to England.
Although Graeme Swann gave Cook some control - and wicket-taking threat - it was no surprise that Anderson provided the lift England desperately needed. With the second ball of a new spell, this time from the Nursery End, he swung one back into Taylor's pad for which the batsman almost walked before being given.
That broke a stand of 93 in 25 overs and, though Taylor dominated, Kane Williamson more than played his part, showing his ability off the back foot. He was, though, given a life on 23 by Matt Prior - who had earlier bagged a first-ball duck to mark a tricky start to his season after being named England's player of the year - when he went one-handed for an edge off Anderson where he may have been able to use both gloves. When collecting his award on Monday, Prior did note how "fickle" the game can be. Then, on 27, England did not review for a catch down the leg side that replays showed had grazed the bat.
This match is shaping to go against the trend of relatively high-scoring encounters at Lord's even in May. England's batting continued to be wrapped in caution after they resumed on 160 for 4 and an innings that had crept along unravelled quickly either side of lunch as New Zealand's diligence and discipline was rewarded.
Tim Southee broke the deadlock with two wickets in two balls to spark a slide of 4 for 9 in 17 balls before the interval, and he also claimed the final wickets to finish with 4 for 48. For the second time in two series England had begun without an individual half-century.
Joe Root had played very solidly, as much as any of the top order, on his first appearance at Lord's until glancing Southee past his hip where BJ Watling, excellent behind the stumps, took the catch diving to his left. In New Zealand, and on the first day here, Southee bowled without the luck his efforts deserved so no one could begrudge him a change in fortune. But it was a tough way for Root to depart after he had played another mature innings. For the first time ever, for any team, four of the top five batsmen departed between 31 and 40.
If the ball to claim Root was not the best Southee had bowled, the delivery to trap Prior was certainly up there; an off-cutter (or at least a scrambled seam) that gripped slightly on the surface to beat the inside edge in front of middle and leg. Prior opted for a review and while the decision was not plumb, 'umpires' call' on hitting was enough for Southee and New Zealand.
Broad survived the hat-trick ball as it slid wide of off stump, but not much longer. His part in the match-saving heroics at Auckland was all the more surprising because of the decline in his batting over the last months. On this occasion he was stone dead lbw to Wagner (so much so that even Broad knew he couldn't ask for a review) as he was beaten by a full delivery that straightened but he did not give himself the best chance to survive by aiming towards square leg.
Although Wagner sprayed the occasional ball outside off he found the most movement of the three quicks during a spell where he charged in from the Nursery End. He was quickly in the face of Swann - who was welcomed back to Test cricket with a couple of sharp bouncers having had the temerity to drive a boundary through point - but it was another full delivery that ended his brief stay and gave Watling his fourth catch.
Bairstow watched from the non-striker's end as he, too, reigned in a natural attacking instinct, but did produce a couple of strong straight drives that defied the slow outfield. He was left doing what he could with the tail for company and was just threatening to try a few more shots when he watched Southee cling onto a thumping drive.