England stumbled to 55 for five at the Ageas Bowl but were bailed out by Livingstone, who shared a restorative 48-run stand with Moeen Ali before putting on a decisive 112 in 77 balls with Sam Curran.
The Cumbrian might have fallen just short of a maiden ODI ton but, having registered his first fifty of the summer at domestic or international level in Friday’s series opener at Cardiff after a winter in which he battled ankle and knee injuries, the 30-year-old is finding some fluency ahead of next month’s World Cup.
His innings, remarkably the first time he has batted for 50 deliveries or more at international level, ushered England to 226 for seven, enough for a 79-run victory after New Zealand were skittled for 147.
“It’s weird, I’ve won (T20) World Cup (last November) but probably had the worst year of my career for form and had two bad injuries,” Livingstone said.
“This is something I’ve been crying out for. Unfortunately, there’s a reason why there’s not many lower-order hitters that have mastered the art of the game – it’s a pretty difficult role to do.
“If you get on a roll, it’s pretty nice. But you get yourself in a bit of a rut, it’s quite hard to get out of. It’s probably the first time in my career where I’ve had two months of struggling.
“I’ve put in a lot of work behind the scenes to try and go back to knowing what I can do and that’s win games for England. Thankfully I’ve done that.”
After being blown away in Cardiff on Friday, this was an impressive response from England, especially after losing Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Ben Stokes within the space of eight Trent Boult deliveries.
In his 100th ODI, the left-arm seamer exploited bowler-friendly conditions after rain had delayed the start time and led to the contest being reduced to 34 overs per side at Southampton and England needed every ounce of their batting depth to dig them out of the perilous position of eight for three.
Livingstone strode out at number seven after just 12.1 overs and was strong all around the ground, while he took a particular liking to Tim Southee, with six of his 10 boundaries – nine fours and a six – coming off the New Zealand Test captain.
Livingstone recognised he owed a debt of gratitude to Curran, who was a useful foil as he contributed 42 off 35 deliveries before lapping to short third in the final over.
“I don’t think consolidation is a word we use in the dressing room,” Livingstone said. “We’ve just got to see what we think is best in that situation. If in doubt, take the aggressive option.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be the easiest pitch but it was just about getting to a score we felt we could defend.
“My initial role was to just get used to the conditions and bat with Mo and then try and put on a partnership with Sammy.
“To have someone like Sam Curran batting at eight in any team in world cricket is pretty nice. Something we pride ourselves on is the depth we’ve got, we’ve got a lot of batting for days like this when things don’t go right up top.
“It’s a pretty rare occasion we end up 50 for five because of the quality we’ve got in our team. It’s always nice that when it does happen, you can put your hand up and win a game for England.”
New Zealand were going along nicely on 111 for three but Reece Topley’s dismissal of captain Tom Latham induced a collapse, which saw the Black Caps lose their last seven wickets for 36 runs in 39 balls.
Topley, whose dismissal of Latham was his first wicket in five ODIs, then snared middle-order duo Glenn Phillips and Rachin Ravindra in his next over to finish with three for 27 in seven impressive overs.
Daryl Mitchell, whose brutal unbeaten ton set up an eight-wicket win at Sophia Gardens, overturned being given out on nought to bludgeon 57 off 52 balls.
But he became Moeen Ali’s 100th ODI wicket which saw New Zealand slide quickly to defeat in the second of four matches as they were all out in 26.5 overs.
“I thought our bowlers were exceptional,” Livingstone added. “They learnt from how New Zealand bowled and pretty much nailed the game plan.”