Sulieman Benn's five-wicket haul gave the West Indies the initiative as New Zealand were dismissed for 293 on the opening day of the third Test at Kensington Oval in Barbados on Thursday.
With the series locked at 1-1 ahead of this potential decider, the home side closed the day at 32 without loss in reply.
Continuing to carry a heavy bowling workload during this series, the tall left-arm spinner finished with figures of five for 93 off 26.2 overs to restrict the Black Caps on a pitch that seems set to produce an outright result. On the opening day of the 50th Test match to be played at the iconic venue, Benn got excellent support from fellow Barbadian Kemar Roach, the fast bowler claiming four for 61.
All-rounder Jimmy Neesham topscored with 78 but his dismissal via the run out typified another day for the tourists when they failed to make the most of encouraging positions.
Key batsmen Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, together with Mark Craig lower down the order all got into the 40's but were unable to build the sort of innings that would have made Brendon McCullum more comfortable with his decision to bat first on winning the toss.
Roach removed openers Tom Latham and Hamish Rutherford in the morning session, but the Black Caps looked to be prospering with Williamson and Taylor together in the early afternoon until Benn started to make a significant difference, both with the ball and in the field.
Williamson fell for 43 to a catch at slip by Darren Bravo in the third over after lunch. Taylor, on 45, then got a delivery from Roach that took the shoulder of the bat and Benn flung himself to his right at gully to come up with the catch and give the fast bowler his third wicket of the innings.
McCullum and Neesham counter-attacked with a succession of boundaries in a 54-run fifth-wicket partnership before Benn removed McCullum for 31 via a top-edge that was comfortably held by Darren Bravo at slip.
New batsman Tim Southee didn't last long, being bowled by Benn but Neesham carried on playing his shots and looked set for a third hundred in four Test matches when a mix-up with Craig brought about his demise.
West Indies have strengthened their bowling attack for this deciding Test, giving tall fast-medium bowler Jason Holder a debut at the expense of Jermaine Blackwood. Spinner Shane Shillingford, who missed the second Test because of an ankle injury, is back in the final 11, taking the place of burly fast bowler Shannon Gabriel.
New Zealand made one change for the match, replacing leg-spinner Ish Sodhi with Neil Wagner and leaving the main slow bowling duties solely in the hands of off-spinner Craig.