Kevin Pietersen's 115 rescued England from a top-order collapse on the first day of the third and final Test against New Zealand at Trent Bridge here Thursday.
At stumps England, who shortly after lunch slumped to 86 for five, were 273 for seven.
Their recovery was built around a sixth-wicket stand of 161 between Pietersen and wicket-keeper Tim Ambrose (67) who came in following noughts from struggling batsmen Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood.
But, frustratingly for England, Ambrose was out before the close, caught behind off seamer Iain O'Brien, whose figures of four for 61 in 20 overs were his best in Test cricket.
Stuart Broad was 15 not out and James Anderson one not out. New Zealand, in a match they have to win to end the series level at 1-1, were still on top at tea with England 180 for five.
And that would have been 180 for six had Jamie How at mid-wicket held a difficult low, left-handed chance offered by Ambrose, still on his tea score of 36, off O'Brien.
Ambrose went on to complete a 102-ball fifty with seven fours. At the other end, Pietersen fiercely pulled a short ball from Chris Martin to go into the 90s.
He then had a big stroke of luck when, trying to withdraw the bat against Jacob Oram, he got an underside edge which went for four.
But a classy off-driven four off Martin saw Pietersen to his 12th hundred in 39 Tests, and first at Trent Bridge, in 194 balls with 12 boundaries.
Pietersen celebrated by leaping in the air and punching his fist in front of a crowd which included Prince Philip, husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who'd opened the new Bridgford Road stand.
New Zealand took the new ball as soon as they could, with England 244 for five off 80 overs.
They were rewarded shortly afterwards when Pietersen tamely edged Iain O'Brien to give debutant wicket-keeper Gareth Hopkins his first Test dismissal.
England had earlier lost three wickets in the first three overs after lunch, all of the last ball.
Andrew Strauss, England's century hero in their six-wicket second Test victory at Old Trafford, hadn't added to his lunch score of 37 he drove loosely at a wide delivery from pace bowler Kyle Mills and was well-caught at first slip by Ross Taylor.
Then 84 for three became 85 for four when Bell, hitting across the line, was clearly lbw to O'Brien. And a third wicket went down in the space of 13 balls for just two runs when Collingwood edged Mills.
Bell, often accused of not scoring runs when England really need them, had now managed just 45 runs in the series and Collingwood 32.
All-rounder Collingwood's exit made it 23 innings without a Test hundred since his 128 against the West Indies on his Durham home ground in June last year - the last time England managed the benchmark first innings total of 400.
Ambrose, whose maiden century in the second Test against New Zealand in Hamilton in March came after England had collapsed to 136 for five, now found himself facing another rescue mission.
South Africa-born Pietersen, who began his English county career here for Nottinghamshire before moving to Hampshire three years ago, made his name as a flamboyant shotmaker.
But, as his 129 in the first innings of a series-clinching victory against New Zealand in Napier, where England had been 36 for four, showed, he can bat with care and his patience was much in evidence early in this innings too.
New Zealand's seamers quickly justified Vettori's decision to field first on a soft, green-tinged pitch as the ball moved away off the seam.
Hopkins made his debut after Brendon McCullum was declared unfit to keep wicket shortly before play because of a back problem.
However, McCullum was chosen as a batsman only in place of struggling No 3 James Marshall, dropped in the only personnel change to New Zealand's second Test side.
England, for the first time since 1885, named an unchanged team for the fifth successive Test.