Late bowling strikes, Henry Nicholls century leave Black Caps clinging on after torrid opening day against South Africa
Without Ross Taylor and Trent Boult, you could argue New Zealand are in reasonable shape after a rollicking first day against South Africa.
Day two of the second cricket test in Wellington is when the gap left by Boult in particular will need to be plastered and papered skilfully.
If the wind stays down and the temperature climbs, and the makeshift new ball duo of Tim Southee and Colin de Grandhomme can extract more swing and seam from this Basin Reserve surface then further twists and turns await.
South Africa resume on 24-2 in reply to New Zealand's first innings of 268, seemingly sub-par but hauled towards respectability by Henry Nicholls' superb maiden test century and some late Southee swipes.
Given the Basin's reputation as a batsman's paradise on days two and three it's still advantage South Africa, who know if they can survive the early overs and be patient then a runfest beckons.
"It's evenly poised now and tomorrow is going to be a big day in terms of where this test match goes. We're going to have to graft hard," South Africa's JP Duminy said.
"There was a little bit in the wicket that first session and it's kind of died, but that first hour will be crucial and there will be a hint of swing with Southee there."
In the absence of his injured mate Boult, who said he was "pretty close" to playing and was confident of returning in Hamilton, a fresh Southee needs to take the lead before Jeetan Patel twirls in his first Wellington test. Just when they needed some Southee energy he struck early, removing the out-of-sorts Stephen Cook then de Grandhomme snared the huge bonus wicket of Dunedin man of the match Dean Elgar.
Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis are the vital scalps and if they're back in the dressing room before lunch then we have a test match, at 0-0 with nine intriguing days left in this series.
The last three times New Zealand batted first at the Basin they scored 192 against India (drawn), 221 against Sri Lanka (won) and 183 against Australia (lost). Each time they trailed significantly.
After being covered for four days, groundsman Hagen Faith's pitch was, in Nicholls' words, "a pretty good wicket, a traditional first day, first session at the Basin."
Having said that, anything over 250 looked golden runs after New Zealand slumped to 21-3 with the ball nibbling and swinging but hardly unplayable, as Nicholls showed.
It was a tough day for home captain Kane Williamson, shouldering the added burden of Taylor's injury absence.
He lost his seventh successive toss when they desperately wanted to bowl first, then was trapped in front for two by Kagiso Rabada and couldn't review when ball tracker was foiled by a rogue piece of mud from Rabada's boot.
A struggling Tom Latham couldn't pass 10 for a seventh successive international innings, a world away from his 177 against Bangladesh two months ago, and Neil Broom lasted four balls on debut when Quinton de Kock snared a ripping low catch.
Amid all this Nicholls was purposeful and positive. He upper cut Morne Morkel to get going, then danced down to Keshav Maharaj to raise 50 off 66 balls. There were late cuts, firm cover drives and savage pulls and hooks off the quicks in a brilliant counter-attack.
Said Duminy: "To play as positively as he did was the way to go on a surface like that, with a little bit in the wicket. He never backed off at any stage. He always looked to play his shots, which was the recipe for success. Hopefully we can take something out of that."
Nicholls got a warm ovation for his 150-ball ton, his first in his 13th test, raised with a hook off Rabada.
Then it got a bit weird as the last five wickets fell for 49 and spin played an unlikely role.
Not since 1946 and Australia's Bill O'Reilly had spinners claimed five wickets on day one of a Basin test, before part-timer Duminy (4-47) and Maharaj (2-47) made things happen. Nicholls (118) played on off his legs and BJ Watling (34 off 132 balls) was somehow caught off the flap of his back pad.
Still, it could have been worse and New Zealand will return with a spring in their legs.
"We're in a good spot. It's nice to remove both their openers and Dean who had a lot of success in that last test. We're very happy to take those two wickets and it'll be a big first hour in the morning," Nicholls said.