New Zealand 278 and 42 for 0 (Latham 25*, Raval 17*) need another 340 runs to beat England 307 and 352 for 9 dec (Vince 76, Stoneman 60, Root 54, Malan 53, de Grandhomme 4-94)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
England's hopes of ending a long and arduous campaign with their first overseas Test victory in 13 attempts were blunted by an obdurate opening stand from New Zealand's Tom Latham and Jeet Raval, as well as the onset of the antipodean autumn, as bad light descended shortly after tea to saw 24 overs off the day's allocation.
Despite an attempt to rage against the dying of the light, with England turning to the spin of Jack Leach and Joe Root after being informed by the umpires that their quicks could no longer be used, the players left the field with New Zealand sitting pretty on 42 for 0 after 23 overs of hard graft.
The net result was that the home side will need a further 340 runs for victory on the final day - an outlandish prospect, given the likelihood of further lost overs. However, with ten wickets in the bank, New Zealand will surely believe they can bat out for the draw that will secure them their first series win over England since 1999, and their first at home since 1983-84.
England's bowlers, however, were not repelled without a fight. James Anderson and Stuart Broad hounded the outside edge of both openers in another gruelling new-ball spell, with Raval taking a nasty blow to the torso from Broad as he was forced to wait 15 deliveries to get off the mark. But it was Anderson who forced England's one clear-cut opportunity - when Latham, on 23, was dropped by James Vince, a tough but genuine chance, diving to his left at third slip in the brief final session.
Mark Wood, not for the first time in this Test, was energetic but misdirected in his brief foray before tea, but - with the ball now losing its shine - it may well be the debutant Leach who has the biggest say on a wicket that isn't exactly breaking up, but was beginning to offer some reward for his accuracy when the umpires called time on England's efforts.
In hindsight, England may regret the lack of intent that they showed in their own second innings, having resumed on 202 for 3 overnight, with an already handy lead of 231 in the bank. Following on from the efforts of Vince and Mark Stoneman on the third afternoon, England found another pair of half-centurions in Root and Dawid Malan, but were forced in the end to scramble for their declaration due to another familiar and untimely clatter of wickets.
For the first 90 minutes of the day, Root and Malan had batted with uncomplicated purpose in easing along to a 97-run stand for England's fourth wicket, but New Zealand's decision to delay the second new ball paid dividends, as both were dragged out of their comfort zones in their attempts to pick up the tempo.
First to go was Malan, caught at short midwicket as Colin de Grandhomme tailed one into his pads from round the wicket. Henry Nicholls snaffled the chance at head height, to complete the 24th dismissal of the match, and the first by any of the change bowlers on either side.
And in Neil Wagner's very next over, Root had a flash at a full-length outswinger and skimmed a thin nick through to BJ Watling, to put the seal on an intensely frustrating winter for England's captain - seven fifty-plus scores in 13 innings, but no hundreds.
England's misfiring continued in the first over after lunch, as Ben Stokes holed out to midwicket off another de Grandhomme inswinger. But New Zealand's hopes of stealing the ascendancy were, to all intents and purposes, ended two balls later, when Jonny Bairstow survived a vociferous appeal for caught behind off Trent Boult. Replays proved that umpire Marais Erasmus had missed a thin nick that would have left England seven-down with a lead of 311, but with no more reviews to turn to, New Zealand's moment was lost.
Their bowlers continued to chip away regardless. De Grandhomme traded tail-end slogs for wickets as Broad was suckered by a slower ball before Wood was bowled by a big inswinger two overs later. But, with Leach providing obdurate support, Bairstow turned on the afterburners. He smoked Boult for three fours in five balls as the lead began to accelerate, and when he eventually top-edged Wagner to deep midwicket for 36, Root immediately declared, with a lead of 382 and an hour of the afternoon session still to come.
That first hour came and went in a flurry of defensive prods and pokes, as Latham and Raval repelled the new ball with gritted teeth and a degree of well-earned luck. But if England went to tea believing that their breakthoughs were only a matter of time, the final session gave them yet more cause for doubt. Eleven overs, eight runs, one dropped catch, and no chance to dictate terms as the gloom began to envelop their Test prospects once more.