New Zealand needed a late try to secure a close 20-15 victory over a depleted but courageous England at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday in the first of three Tests.
England were forced to field a second string team for the match as the Premiership final was contested between Saracens and Northampton Saints last week which made all players from those teams unavailable for the opening test.
Conrad Smith scored a try with two minutes remaining when England were reduced to 14 players after Marlande Yarde had been yellow carded.
Despite the loss England will take great confidence from the result as it illustrates the strength in the depth of the squad by pushing the All Blacks to the edge.
The result extends the All Blacks unbeaten record at Eden Park to 32 matches over 20 years as their last loss at the venue was in July 1994.
The match had looked to be headed for a draw after Aaron Cruden and Danny Cipriani kicked penalties in the final quarter to level the scores.
All Black Cruden finished with 15 points from the match as he missed the conversion of Smith's try.
England's Freddie Burns kicked four penalties in the match and Danny Cipriani levelled the scores after Cruden had edged the home side ahead.
England, who led for much of the match, took an early lead after they were awarded a penalty for Ma'a Nonu tackling James Haskell without the ball in the second minute. Nonu was fortunate not to be yellow carded for the incident.
The deciding moment came after Marland Yarde had been yellow carded for not releasing Brodie Retalick and the All Blacks chose to run the ball instead of kicking for posts.
The All Blacks used the advantage of the extra man to get the ball to England's tryline and after being ruled short initially by the TMO they eventually smuggled the ball wide out to Conrad Smith for the match winning try.
Smith's try was the only try in a scintillating match in which the visitors, largely written off before the game, dictated terms for much of the play despite starting with 284 caps compared to the All Blacks' 779.
There was little to suggest the All Blacks were the reigning world champions.
In their first Test of the season they vowed not to use rustiness as an excuse. But there were few other explanations for a performance strewn with mistakes and handling errors.
England, hampered by having at least 12 senior players unavailable, rattled the All Blacks from the kick off.
They shaded the home side in the scrums, kicked to turn the All Blacks around -- with the New Zealanders often uneasy under the high ball -- and with the ball in hand they played an expansive game to show a touch of class on the outside.
As the All Blacks began to crumble, coach Steve Hansen gambled with 20 minutes to go by replacing the 88-Test rock of the backline Ma'a Nonu with debutant Malakai Fekitoa to "do the job for us".
While Hansen said he believed the All Blacks needed a 30-40 percent improvement, captain Richie McCaw said they never felt they were going to lose.
"It didn't feel like the game was slipping away from us. It was just a matter of putting a couple of things together to get to the right end of the field to get an opportunity and it took a while for that to happen," he said.
England coach Stuart Lancaster faulted his side for not kicking themselves out of trouble when the All Blacks were attacking in the dying minutes.
"At 15-all it's all about territory and how you manage the game and close out the game. We had opportunities in between our 22 and halfway line to clear our lines a bit and play and put the pressure on them," he said.
England assistant coach Andy Farrell had called on his side to believe in themselves and for the first half they did.
They rocked the All Blacks from the kick off, forcing indecision and errors with a rushed defence while cashing in as the penalties flowed.
Chris Robshaw exposed holes around the All Blacks ruck in the opening minutes forcing them into a defensive penalty as they scrambled to hold their line and Freddie Burns slotted the three points.
Burns, who made his debut off the bench when England beat New Zealand at Twickenham two years ago, added two more penalties matched by three for the All Blacks by Aaron Cruden as they turned at half-time locked at 9-9.
Both sides tested the tryline in the first half. Only a desperate tackle by Mike Brown stopped Cory Jane scoring in the corner for the All Blacks while Freddie Burns crossed for England but was called back for a knock on.
An audacious pass through the legs by England's James Haskell had Jonny May sprinting down the sideline but that was undone by a forward pass.
Errors continued to plague the All Blacks after the resumption with Jerome Kaino knocking on a metre from the line and Ben Smith came up just short when the All Blacks elected to run instead of taking a kickable penalty.
The second half was scoreless until the 65th minute when a fourth Burns penalty put England ahead 12-9 leading to a frantic closing period.
Cruden landed two further penalties to put the All Blacks ahead for the first time, replacement fly-half Danny Cipriani landed one to level the scores at 15-all before Smith scoring the match-winning try.
Final Score New Zealand 20 (9) England 15 (9)
Tries - C.Smith
Pen -Cruden (5)
Pen - Burns (4)
Referee : Nigel Owens (Wales)
1. Tony Woodcock , 2. Dane Coles , 3. Owen Franks, 4. Brodie Retallick , 5. Samuel Whitelock , 6. Liam Messam , 7. Richie McCaw (c), 8. Jerome Kaino , 9. Aaron Smith , 10. Aaron Cruden , 11. Cory Jane , 12. Ma'a Nonu , 13. Conrad Smith , 14. Ben Smith, 15. Israel Dagg
Replacements : 16. Keven Mealamu , 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Charlie Faumuina , 19. Patrick Tuipulotu , 20. Victor Vito, 21. TJ Perenara , 22. Beauden Barrett , 23. Malakai Fekitoa
15 Mike Brown , 14 Marland Yarde , 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi , 12 Kyle Eastmond , 11 Jonny May , 10 Freddie Burns , 9 Danny Care , 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw , 6 James Haskell , 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury , 3 David Wilson , 2 Rob Webber , 1 Joe Marler
Replacements : 16 Joe Gray , 17 Matt Mullan , 18 Henry Thomas , 19 Dave Attwood , 20 Tom Johnson , 21 Ben Youngs , 22 Danny Cipriani , 23 Chris Pennel