But Carter, considered by many to be the finest fly-half in the modern game, had a mixed afternoon as England tore into the number one-ranked side in the world before running out of steam in the second half.
Lewis Moody turned in another destructive performance for the hosts and the returning Simon Shaw was a big presence but ultimately the All Blacks' greater attacking ability was the difference between the two sides.
England had been heavily criticised after their performances against Australia and Argentina, despite victory against the latter, and coach Martin Johnson had decided the answer to the question posed by the All Blacks was power, and plenty of it.
In came noted tackler Joe Worsley, 6ft 8in second row Shaw and 17 stone centre Ayoola Erinle, but Johnson's plans were undermined inside the first 60 seconds.
Worsley carried powerfully into the heart of the visitors' defence but twisted his ankle and had to limp off, with the less physical Tom Croft coming on in his place.
England had penalty of power but lacked a cutting edge on Saturday
England shrugged off his loss and made sure they got stuck into the hosts, with 6ft 7in Bath wing Matt Banahan making his presence felt with some powerful early hits.
Despite England's committed start the All Blacks were handed the first chance to open the scoring when Moody went offside at a ruck.
But Carter, to the amazement of the 80,000 in attendance at Twickenham, missed a straight attempt which would have edged him past Mehrtens at the top of the New Zealand points chart.
Just before the 10-minute mark the forecast rain began to fall but England soon opened the scoring through the boot of Wilkinson after All Blacks captain Richie McCaw infringed at a ruck.
The All Blacks then exploded into life with a dazzling attack from a line-out but Ugo Monye's despairing tackle was enough to just force Mils Muliaina into touch.
After the turgid fare of the previous two weeks it was a surprisingly open game, despite the wet conditions, but tries were at a premium and two Carter penalties, either side of a second Wilkinson kick, ensured the two sides went in level at the break.
Carter had managed to miss another simple penalty before the interval but the All Blacks had shown signs of taking control and they duly edged into a 9-6 lead through a Carter penalty seven minutes into the second half.
England were under pressure at the scrum and increasingly on the back foot in defence and the dam finally burst just before the hour mark.
England showed potential - Muliaina
When the All Blacks combined down the blind side it looked as though England had enough defenders but Sitiveni Sivivatu and McCaw linked sweetly to send Cowan over untouched.
Carter finally managed to select the right club and converted from the touchline what looked, even with a quarter of the game remaining, like being the decisive score.
England had shown a fighting spirit throughout but when they established a couple of good attacking positions deep in the All Blacks' half they lacked the cutting edge required to open up the visitors' solid defence.
And the All Blacks duly made the game safe when, shortly after Conrad Smith and Muliaina had sliced the England defence apart, Carter slotted his fourth penalty of the game.
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