Wellington:England built an impregnable position by batting throughout the third day of the second cricket Test on Saturday to lead New Zealand by 421 runs at stumps.
No English batsman excelled Alastair Cook made 60, Paul Collingwood 59 but the foundation of a 144-run first innings lead and a second innings score of 277-9 at stumps put England in prime position to push for a series-levelling victory.
New Zealand has two of the four highest fourth innings totals in Test cricket both against England. The scored 451 at Christchurch in 2002 and 440 at Nottingham in 1973, but lost both matches.
The highest winning total in the fourth innings of a Test match is the West Indies' 418-7 against Australia at St John's five years ago.
The pitch at the Basin Reserve has mellowed after offering bounce and seam on the first two days to become perfect for batting. Should England's last pair of Monty Panesar and James Anderson be able to hold out on Sunday morning, it will leave England captain Michael Vaughan the decision of when to declare and how much time to give his bowlers to take the 10 wickets they need for victory.
"You can never be certain of anything until you take the last wicket," Cook said.
"But at the beginning of test when you've lost the toss, then by the end of the third day you've got the opposition needing 400 to win, it's not a bad effort.
"We can win from here. Nine wickets fell today, 15 wickets fell yesterday. Wickets are falling so we just have to try to score as many runs as can. There are still two days left in test match."
England lost nine wickets and scored 273 runs Saturday on a day in which honors were shared by both sides.
The English batsmen built on their substantial first innings lead but never entirely dominated the New Zealand bowlers, while the Kiwi attack wasn't able to speed the end of England's innings as it would have liked.
"At the end of the day when we kick off our boots in the dressing room, we'll be pretty happy with the way we bowled and fielded today," New Zealand's Jamie How said.
Cook and Andrew Strauss dominated the first session on Saturday, working up a partnership which eventually produced 106 runs for the second wicket.
Both fell quickly after lunch, Cook after scoring his ninth test half century and Strauss for 31.
Ian Bell then made 41 and Collingwood reached 59 before falling lbw to Mark Gillespie in the last over before stumps. Panesar was left six not out at the end of the day's play, yet to be joined by Anderson.
England achieved its first innings lead by scoring 342 after being sent in to bat and then bowling New Zealand out for 198. New Zealand lead the three-Test series 1-0 after winning the first match in Hamilton by 189 runs.