England needed eight runs off the last over, and the bye scrambled off the last ball by Dominic Cork, after Darren Gough had swung and missed at Geoff Allott, means England are 2-0 up with only two matches left in the one-day series.
England, in truth, should have won, especially after Robert Croft had struck the fourth ball of Allott's final over to the midwicket ropes.
That was the first ball Croft had faced - he had arrived at the crease after Craig White had been run out for 39 attempting a second leg bye. Despite a situation where only two runs were needed from two balls, Croft stepped away to leg and tried to carve his second ball square.
The result was that he was bowled off stump, when he merely needed to make sure of getting bat on the ball so that a single could be taken to level the scores.
As it was, Gough came in to join Cork needing to hit a two for victory - and only Cork's 22 yard dash, plus the failure of the wicketkeeper Lee Germon to hit the stumps with his throw, enabled England to come away with something.
There seemed to be a little confusion at the end about whether the side losing the least wickets might win in the event of a tie, but Atherton said: "We were aware in our dressing-room of the situation and the incoming batsmen in that last over knew the rules."
Graham Thorpe began England's recovery from 127 for 5 with a 61-ball 55, before White and Cork kept their heads impressively during their 58- run stand.
It was a good day for the Yorkshire all-rounder White, who earlier had picked up 4 for 37 on his return to the England line-up, profiting from New Zealand's attempts to score as large a total as possible.
Darren Gough was the pick of England's attack, but Croft was again dependable and Somerset's Andy Caddick delivered the most telling spell by picking up 2 for 10 in five overs as New Zealand, like England, fell away in the middle order after a rapid start.
Atherton admitted he was "slightly disappointed" not to have won the match, having fought hard to get into a winning position, but he added: "I think we had the worst conditions because I lost the toss and that meant New Zealand getting the chance to bat first. In day-night matches here the side batting first does have a slight advantage, but halfway through our innings I would have settled for needing 21 runs from the last three overs.''
New Zealand won toss
B A Young b Caddick 53
(129 min, 82 balls, 5 fours)
N J Astle c Stewart b Gough 34
(35 min, 32 balls, 7 fours)
*L K Germon st Stewart b Croft 22
(49 min, 30 balls, 3 fours)
S P Fleming run out (Knight-Stewart) 12
(17 min, 17 balls, 2 fours)
C L Cairns c Cork b Caddick 11
(16 min, 24 balls, 1 four)
A C Parore c and b White 24
(52 min, 33 balls, 2 fours)
C Z Harris c Stewart b White 19
(36 min, 33 balls, 2 fours)
G R Larsen c Stewart b Gough 18
(35 min, 25 balls)
S B Doull b White 23
(34 min, 24 balls, 1 four, 1 six)
H T Davis b White 1
(3 min, 2 balls)
G I Allott not out 1
(1 min, 1 ball)
Extras (lb11 w4 nb4) 19
Total (208 min, 49.4 overs) 237
Fall: 1-50 (Astle) 2-103 (Germon) 3-125 (Fleming) 4-140 (Cairns) 5-145 (Young) 6-178 (Harris) 7-191 (Parore) 8-233 (Larsen) 9-234 (Davis) 10- 237 (Doull).
Bowling: Cork 9-1-41-0 (nb3 w1) (4-1-21-0, 3-0-11-0, 2-0-9-0); Caddick 10-2-43-2 (nb1) (5-0-33-0, 5-2-10-2); Gough 10-0-34-2 (5-0-20-1, 3-0-9- 0, 2-0-5-1); Irani 5-0-29-0 (4-0-20-0, 1-0-9-0); Croft 10-0-42-1 (w1) (6-0-25-1, 4-0-17-0); White 5.4-0-37-4 (w2) (4-0-25-2, 1.4-0-12-2).
N V Knight c and b Allott 39
(52 min, 48 balls, 6 fours)
*M A Atherton b Harris 23
(82 min, 41 balls, 3 fours)
A J Stewart b Harris 17
(38 min, 27 balls, 2 fours)
G P Thorpe c Germon b Doull 55
(89 min, 61 balls, 2 fours, 1 six)
N Hussain b Harris 13
(28 min, 32 balls, 2 fours)
R C Irani c Doull b Larsen 4
(13 min, 8 balls)
C White run out (Cairns-Germon TV replay) 39
(83 min, 47 balls, 1 four)
D G Cork not out 31
(51 min, 35 balls, 2 fours)
R D B Croft b Allott 4
(3 min, 2 balls, 1 four)
D Gough not out 0
(1 min, 1 ball)
Extras (b2 lb3 w5 nb2) 12
Total (for 8, 224 min, 50 overs) 237
Fall: 1-67 (Knight) 2-82 (Atherton) 3-87 (Stewart) 4-114 (Hussain) 5- 127 (Irani) 6-174 (Thorpe) 7-232 (White) 8-236 (Croft).
Did not bat: A R Caddick.
Bowling: Doull 9-0-53-1 (nb1 w2) (3-0-22-0, 6-0-31-1); Allott 9-2-50- 2 (7-2-37-1, 2-0-13-1); Davis 10-0-40-0 (6-0-23-0, 2-0-7-0, 2-0-10-0); Harris 10-3-20-3 (nb1); Larsen 10-0-50-1 (7-0-31-1, 3-0-19-0); Astle 2- 0-19-0.
Umpires: C E King and D M Quested.Reuse content