The Black Caps' hopes of a second straight test victory appeared to have been comprehensively batted away by Pakistan, but they may have left the door open for another comeback.
Centuries to Haris Sohail and Babar Azam have put the hosts in control after two days of the second test in Dubai, with Pakistan declaring at 418-5, before the Black Caps reached stumps at 24-0.
While the curiously timed declaration gave the Black Caps a potential boost, there was still no doubt which side dominated the day.
Coming into day two, the Black Caps were just two good deliveries away from exposing the lengthy Pakistani tail. Instead, it was Pakistan who exposed New Zealand's weaknesses, with Sohail (147) and Azam (127*) underlining their potential with a punishing partnership which has put New Zealand on the ropes.
From here, victory would require a superb batting performance, followed by ripping through Pakistan with the ball – or being granted a generous second-innings declaration. However, with the pitch predicted to play into the hands of the team bowling last, the odds are against it, and the pressure is on for the Black Caps batsmen to deliver against an incoming spin barrage on day three.
Of course, the odds were against a victory in the first test too, but coach Gary Stead wouldn't be pleased with his side having to escape from difficult positions, and that's exactly what they've gotten themselves into once again.
After their bowlers created a slew of chances and applied endless pressure on day one, the Black Caps were much less threatening on day two. Colin de Grandhomme couldn't repeat his superb spell to start the test, Neil Wagner was tidy but rarely threatened, and the Black Caps spinners showed why there should still be question marks over their wicket-taking abilities when the pitch conditions aren't incredibly favourable.
Having looked shaky early in his innings, Sohail was much more comfortable today, bringing up his second test century and pushing on to compile a career-best 147 from a mammoth 421 balls. Azam was quicker to his ton – his first in test cricket - as he delivered on his serious potential shown in his dominant start to his short-form career.
The pair, who had joined forces at a tricky time before stumps on day one, added 186 in 70 overs, until finally Trent Boult claimed the only wicket which fell all day, enticing Sohail to edge through to BJ Watling.
It was deserved reward for his toil, and he also had Sarfraz Ahmed dropped by Tom Latham at second slip, while several run-out chances went amiss as the visitors still had their half-chances, but missed out.
Perhaps, though, they were granted one last chance near the end of the day, when Pakistan surprisingly declared. Their slow run rate – 2.5 - meant their declaration total wasn't as intimidating as it could have been, choosing to call it quits at 418-5 instead of potentially racking up a tally which would have removed a loss from the equation. Then, they would have been able to back themselves to bowl New Zealand out twice in 2 ½ days, on a deteriorating wicket.
Instead, Tom Latham and Jeet Raval comfortably saw out nine overs before stumps, and while they're still serious underdogs, what could have been an unwinnable situation for the Black Caps now at least has the potential for something more.