It was a performance which will have won Zimbabwe plenty of fans as they went for victory right to the end, only to be bowled out for 331 as Doug Bracewell took five wickets in his debut Test.
Bracewell and man of the match Daniel Vettori claimed three wickets apiece in the final session to end Zimbabwe's spirited resistance and give New Zealand captain Ross Taylor a tense win in his first Test as captain.
It was a heartbreaking end for Zimbabwe, who had threatened to complete the highest run chase in their history as Brendan Taylor led from the front with a superb hundred.
The captain was ably assisted by half-centuries from Tino Mawoyo and Tatenda Taibu, but ultimately Zimbabwe's long tail proved costly as they lost their last seven wickets in the final session.
Zimbabwe began the day on 61 for two in pursuit of 366 for victory, but by tea they had progressed to 265 for three - just 101 runs from their target - and the win looked well within their grasp.
However Taylor's dismissal to the second ball of the final session ended a 108-run partnership with Taibu and changed the complexion of the contest as Taibu was forced to consolidate with new batsman Malcolm Waller.
Taylor had controversially survived a potential catch by BJ Watling at deep point just before the tea break, when he stood his ground and was given the benefit of the doubt when replays proved inconclusive.
He failed to learn his lesson though, and there was no doubt about a clean catch the second time around when he repeated a careless stroke and was sent on his way for 117.
Taibu and Waller took a more patient approach as the second new ball caused problems, only for Taibu to fall into the trap set by Daniel Vettori and depart for 63.
The left-arm spinner came over the wicket to bowl into the rough outside leg stump and tempt Taibu into the sweep, and a top edge was easily pouched at deep backward square leg.
Regis Chakabva led a charmed life, surviving an lbw from Bracewell thanks to a no-ball and a run-out when the appeal was sportingly withdrawn by New Zealand because Vettori had blocked Waller's path.
Yet his luck ran out when he was brilliantly caught by wicketkeeper Reece Young off the bowling of Bracewell, exposing Zimbabwe's lengthy tail.
Nevertheless the hosts continued to go for the win, even as they continued to lose wickets, rather than simply trying to play for the draw.
Tristan Holme - cricket365.com