Captain Daniel Vettori led from the front as New Zealand brushed aside India by 10 runs in the Super Eights match of the Twenty20 world championships.
The left-arm spinner claimed 4-20, took a catch and effected a run out as the Kiwis, bowled out for 190, hit back to restrict India to 180-9 in good batting conditions at the Wanderers here.
India failed to build on a blistering start by openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, who put on 76 for the first wicket from 35 deliveries.
Sehwag struck a typically belligerent 17-ball 40 containing six boundaries and two sixes, while Gambhir top-scored with 51 off 33 with five fours and two sixes.
But once Jacob Oram broke through by having Sehwag caught at mid-wicket, India lost their way and conceded wickets at regular intervals to hand New Zealand two valuable points.
New Zealand are grouped with South Africa, England and India in group E of the Super Eights.
Group F comprises Australia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh with the top two teams from each group advancing to the semi-finals.
New Zealand's victory was set up by a valiant fightback from the lower order, who plundered 78 runs in the last five overs after they were reduced to 112-5.
Brendon McCullum smashed 45 off 31 balls at the start, before Craig McMillan (44 from 23) and Jacob Oram (35 off 15) bolstered the total by adding 73 in 33 balls for the sixth wicket.
McMillan hit four sixes and Oram three, but New Zealand failed to cross 200 when they lost four wickets in the final over.
"I don't think we bowled well towards the end of the innings, but the target was gettable after we got such a fine start," said Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
"But we could not get another partnership going and lost too many wickets in a heap. There is a lesson to be learnt here and hopefully we will do better in the other games.
"We know we must win both our remaining matches to make the semi-finals. Nothing is impossible in this game."
Vettori said the late batting revival played a key role because he was confident his bowlers could defend a reasonable target.
"The way Yuvraj and Harbhajan bowled in our innings, I knew we could keep the runs down," said Vettori, who last week was appointed New Zealand Test captain in place of the long-serving Stephen Fleming.
"So the efforts of McMillan and Oram were very valuable. It showed the depth in our batting. It was a good all-round performance."
New Zealand, who were struggling at 112-5 in 15 overs after being given first strike by Dhoni, slammed 25 runs in the 16th over bowled by Yuvraj in which Oram hit two sixes and McMillan a six and a four.
The pair plundered 19 runs in the 18th over sent down by Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and 21 in Ajit Agarkar's 19th.
The Kiwis had three run outs in the final over after Vettori, later named man of the match, was bowled off the first ball by Rudra Pratap.
New Zealand next play England on Tuesday and India take on England on Wednesday, both matches taking place at the Kingsmead in Durban.