Ben Stokes and Joe Root each fell just short of Test centuries after their combined rescue act nonetheless gave England the advantage over New Zealand on day one at Lord's.
The fifth-wicket pair made a mockery of the hosts' struggles against the new ball, with a much-needed stand of 161 in less than 32 overs in a stumps total of 354 for seven in the first Investec Test.
Root and Stokes went just two and eight, respectively, from their hundreds after bailing England out from a perilous 30 for four.
They rarely took a backward step in a calculated counter-attack against seam-and-swing trio Tim Southee, Trent Boult and debutant Matt Henry (three for 93).
Root was quickest to his half-century, his seventh in his last nine Test innings from 53 balls, and he went on to within one more shot of his third hundred at this venue in successive years before going after a wide one from Henry and edging behind to stand-in wicketkeeper Tom Latham.
New Zealand-born Stokes provided England's impetus after lunch with a string of commanding boundaries, often on-drives and fierce pulls - one for six off Henry into the Mound Stand, to go with 15 fours - before missing out on a second Test century.
He left a straight one from off-spinner Mark Craig to be bowled off-stump when a deserved hundred, and a few more too, was in his sights - but by then he had done a fine job.
Root's reliability, in evidence amid England's difficulties in all formats in recent times, was vital again as Alastair Cook's team faltered after Brendon McCullum put them in on a sunny morning.
Cook and debutant Adam Lyth made an encouraging fist of the earliest exchanges on a day when the ball swung throughout but especially at first.
Southee then did Lyth with a variation, though, moving down the slope for a feint edge behind.
Gary Ballance was determined to play from deep in his crease but pushed out in front of his pads for a low edge to third slip after Boult switched to the pavilion end.
Then it was over to the pace of first-change Henry.
Cook took on a bouncer but edged his attempted pull behind, and then Ian Bell was bowled by a very good ball which beat the defensive push on the outside and clipped the off bail - a third wicket for the addition of just five runs.
There were boundaries to be had through attacking fields, though, if Root and Stokes could locate middle rather than edge.
They took up the challenge, Root sure of stroke and purpose to help England take a firm foothold after all in this first Test of their Ashes summer.
He had an escape just before lunch on 36, when umpire's call kept him in the game on impact after Craig turned one against the gradient to beat an attempted sweep and hit the back leg.
New Zealand, minus BJ Watling who had bruised his knee in the morning and was replaced by Latham behind the stumps, began to find the going tough and Stokes took control.
After the all-rounder's error against Craig, it was Jos Buttler (67) who then helped Root put on another 60 until England's player of the year and new vice-captain departed in anti-climax during a disciplined spell from Henry.
The Yorkshireman had fulfilled an important and familiar role, however, ensuring England did not fall in a heap as had seemed entirely possible.
It was thanks to him and Stokes that Buttler had the opportunity, against an older ball, to contribute an admirable half-century and then share a partnership of 103 with Moeen Ali.
The latter was seen scampering round the ground from a morning net as England's wickets fell so quickly in the first hour.
But whatever number Moeen was supposed to come in initially, even after Boult had Buttler lbw to the last ball of the day England had lost just three wickets for 324 in more than 77 overs.Reuse content