England restricted New Zealand to 66 for three at the close of play after having been bowled out for 465 to gain the upper hand on day two of the second Test in Wellington.
Jonathan Trott, who shared a double-century partnership with Nick Compton on day one, departed first ball in the morning for 121 while Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior weighed in with valuable scores of 73 and 82 respectively before England were dismissed by the tea interval.
Slow left-arm spinner Bruce Martin took four wickets for the hosts, who were left to rue having asked England to bat at the toss, with Stuart Broad putting the tourists in command taking two wickets in two balls as Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford and Ross Taylor all fell in a nervy final session.
The Black Caps ended the day 399 runs shy of England’s first-innings score, but with a poor weather forecast for the final two days of the match at the Basin Reserve, the onus will be on the tourists to force the issue on day three after they salvaged an unconvincing draw in the first Test in Dunedin.
Despite being under the cosh at the close of play, the morning session belonged to the hosts with the tone set in the second over of the day as Trott was dismissed first ball by Trent Boult as he edged behind to BJ Watling without adding to his overnight score.
Pietersen continued to battle away without his usual fluency as he steadily added to his day one score of 18 with seven fours and a six, but Ian Bell could not stay with him as the number five threw his wicket away, recklessly charging down the track and chipping an innocuous delivery from Martin to Fulton at mid off.
Joe Root was also left looking crushingly disappointed as he trudged back to the pavilion with just 10 runs to his name after he nicked behind to Watling off the bowling of Martin, whose figures of 4-130 were reward for an unerring line and length throughout despite a lack of turn on a frustratingly placid pitch.
When Pietersen’s knock came to an end it did so in tame fashion as he chipped a regulation delivery from Martin to Fulton in a similar manner to Bell, and England still had plenty of work left to do with Prior and Broad at the crease.
The England wicketkeeper continued on his merry way as he plundered 10 fours and two sixes, but Broad was unable to stay with him as he edged behind to Watling off the bowling of Boult, who finished with two wickets after a mixed performance.
Steven Finn was next in, and the man nicknamed the Watford Wall after his heroics in helping to save the first Test in Dunedin stuck around for 61 balls as he provided ideal assistance for Prior, scoring 24 runs in the process.
Prior was eventually dismissed by the part-time off spin of Kane Williamson as he unselfishly attempted a reverse-sweep looking to attack with the tail despite nearing his century after Finn was caught by McCullum off Wagner, and Monty Panesar fell for a three-ball duck to end the innings abruptly.
The hosts had a tricky final session of the day to negotiate in fast deteriorating light, and an out of sorts Fulton was only able to survive 24 balls as he edged behind tamely to captain Alastair Cook off the bowling of James Anderson as England struck early to send the Barmy Army into raptures.
Rutherford, who scored an impressive big century in Dunedin, played an altogether more circumspect knock as he hit just two boundaries in a patient 23 off 65 balls before he was dismissed by Broad with Cook again the man taking the catch at slip.
Broad, who came on first change after Anderson and Finn to bowl in tandem with Panesar, suddenly found himself on a hat-trick after he outfoxed Ross Taylor next ball with a full delivery that skidded on to wreck the woodwork. It was a huge blow for the hosts, who continued to bat hesitantly in the final hour.
Dean Brownlie survived the hat-trick ball and steered his side to stumps alongside the composed Williamson, who was 31 not out at the close of play, but England will feel confident about their chances of forcing a result if they can take quick wickets early on day three having held the ascendancy from the outset.