Winston Reid headed a dramatic injury-time equaliser against Slovakia to earn New Zealand their first ever World Cup point.
Slovakia were on course for a perfect start in their debut World Cup as an independent nation after Robert Vittek's 50th-minute header.
But Vladimir Weiss's side paid for sitting back on their lead when, in the third minute of injury time, Reid rose to head home Shane Smeltz's left-wing cross.
The result in Rustenburg leaves all four teams in Group F on a point each after Italy's draw with Paraguay on Monday.
Perhaps more importantly for the Kiwis, though, it breaks their World Cup duck.
New Zealand's only other appearance in a World Cup finals was in 1982 when they lost to Scotland (5-2), Soviet Union (3-0) and Brazil (4-0).
Their warm-up matches were hardly encouraging either, with a 1-0 win over Serbia the highlight among defeats by Slovenia, Australia and Mexico.
However, defender Ryan Nelsen promised his team would "make every New Zealander proud" and they were true to the Blackburn defender's word at a far-from-full Bafokeng Stadium.
Middlesbrough striker Chris Killen threatened twice within the first five minutes, first with a long-range effort which flew well over and then with a header, which goalkeeper Jan Mucha gathered at the second attempt.
Slovakia's main threat in the first half, such as it was, was provided by 20-year-old Manchester City winger Vladimir Weiss, as the much-vaunted Napoli playmaker Marek Hamsik struggled to impose himself.
Weiss's trickery on the left set up chances for Hamsik, who bent an ambitious shot wide, and Stanislav Sestak, who fired narrowly wide.
Slovakia's best chance of a breakthrough, though, came through New Zealand's nervy keeper Mark Paston.
The Wellington Phoenix player embarrassingly miscued a clearance, gifting Vittek a difficult chance, and was fortunate to see one of his defenders clear when he failed to collect a header across the box.
Paston partly redeemed himself with a smart tip-over from Hamsik's long-range effort shortly before half-time, but within five minutes of the restart, he was beaten.
Slovakia finally found a good delivery from Sestak on the right, the Bochum winger whipping a cross in from deep for Vittek to plant a perfect header into the bottom corner.
New Zealand were rocked, but Slovakia, while looking comfortable in defence, did not seem desperate to press home their superiority.
Their attitude was summed up when more good work from Sestak gave Vittek a chance to wrap it up, but the striker appeared to delay too long, allowing Reid to slide in with an excellent tackle.
And it was Reid who was the New Zealand hero at the other end.
The Kiwis had hardly threatened in the second half, but they saved their best two chances for the dying minutes.
Smeltz, the former Mansfield, AFC Wimbledon and Halifax striker, headed wide from a tempting Tony Lockhead cross before he set up an unlikely equaliser, delivering a perfect ball from the left for Reid to head past Mucha.
The FC Midtjylland defender ripped off his shirt and swung it around his head, prompting the inevitable booking from the referee, but that mattered little as he celebrated a historic goal for his country.
A first World Cup win may prove harder to come by: New Zealand face Italy in their next game on Sunday, when Slovakia will look to make amends against Paraguay.
Attempts on target
Attempts off target
Projected table based on current scores
|Group A teams||P||W||D||L||F||A||GD||PTS|
|Group B teams||P||W||D||L||F||A||GD||PTS|
|Group C teams||P||W||D||L||F||A||GD||PTS|
|Group D teams||P||W||D||L||F||A||GD||PTS|
|Group E teams||P||W||D||L||F||A||GD||PTS|
|Group F teams||P||W||D||L||F||A||GD||PTS|
|Group G teams||P||W||D||L||F||A||GD||PTS|