Martin Guptill says there's still plenty to play for in the second Test as the Black Caps find themselves 60 runs behind Sri Lanka's first innings total with one wicket in hand.
Guptill and fellow opener Tom Latham had given New Zealand a solid start in reply to the tourists' 292 with an 81-run stand on day two in Hamilton.
But Sri Lanka struck back, with four-Test fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera claiming his first five-wicket bag.
Most of the damage was done in Saturday's second session as the home side were reduced to 4-89 and then 5-128.
Mitchell Santner (38), BJ Watling (28), Doug Bracewell (30no) and Neil Wagner (17) provided some resistance as New Zealand got to 9-232 at stumps.
"Obviously, we're not where we would like to be," Guptill said.
"We had to weather a bit of a storm just after lunch where Sri Lanka bowled very well.
"But the fight we showed down the bottom of the order through Dougie, Mitch and BJ - we're still in this game."
As Sri Lanka pursued a short-ball strategy, the introduction of Chameera as their fifth bowler provided the breakthrough.
His first seven-over spell returned 3-17 as he took three of the first four wickets to fall.
The 23-year-old was then rested until the day's final hour, coming back to dismiss Tim Southee.
He got a bit more stick in his second spell, with Wagner hitting two fours and then a six out of the ground in consecutive balls.
But Chameera had the final say when he had Wagner caught at cover for 28 to finish the day with 5-47.
"The wicket had some pace and bounce so we wanted to unsettle the batsmen," he said.
"I think we were successful with the bouncer."
The right-armer broke New Zealand's opening stand when Latham, on 28, turned a delivery to leg gully, where Dimuth Karunaratne had just been moved.
Kane Williamson then departed for one, having ducked under two Chameera bouncers before pulling the third to a fieldsman in the deep.
It was the dismissal that gave Chameera the greatest pleasure, having rated Williamson as the best of the New Zealand batsmen.
Guptill had hit 10 boundaries in getting to 50, but another big shot produced an edge from off spinner Ragana Herath to first slip.
Chameera then had Ross Taylor caught for a duck with sharp, lifting delivery.
Skipper Brendon McCullum was the fifth wicket to fall, snared close in off Herath for 18.
Sri Lanka had resumed in the morning at 264-7 and with skipper Angelo Mathews on 63.
Matthew scored his 4000th Test run on the way to reaching 77 before becoming swing bowler Tim Southee's third scalp.
Southee, the most consistent of the New Zealand's attack, finished with the best figures of 3-63.