England 16 New Zealand 17: Shaun Johnson's late drop goal floors England
England hit back from 12-4 and 16-10 down, but man of the match Johnson landed a decisive one-pointer with 16 minutes left.
That came three years after he scored a last-gasp winning try against England in a World Cup semi-final at Wembley.
New Zealand are now hot favourites to face Australia in next month’s final at Anfield, with England needing to beat Scotland next week and the Kangaroos the week after.
England started well, went 4-0 ahead and should have been further in front, but the Kiwis rallied to take a 6-4 interval lead.
Gareth Widdop kicked the opening points after New Zealand were caught offside in the second minute and double the lead in similar fashion after being tackled high by Johnson.
After an early spell of pressure by New Zealand, from a couple of penalties, scrum and drop-out, England attacked strongly and went close through the outstanding Jermaine McGillvary, John Bateman - who was held up over the line - and James Graham.
The prop stretched over from close range on 23 minutes, but referee Robert Hicks said no try and video official Bernard Sutton agreed, awarding a penalty for a double-movement.
That was a key moment as New Zealand dominated the rest of the half. Jordan Kahu pulled two points back with a penalty goal and the restart went out on the full.
England conceded a succession of penalties and drop-outs - one when Sutton ruled Jonny Lomax had grounded Kahu’s kick ahead of Solomon Kata - and the pressure eventually told when Jordan Rapana crossed at the corner.
The mountain got steeper a minute into the second half when Johnson intercepted Widdop’s pass deep in New Zealand territory and raced clear to score a try which Kahu improved.
The eight point gap looked huge, but England responded strongly. Tom Burgess rocked the defence with a couple of strong runs before Luke Gale teed up Elliott Whitehead, whose long pass was well-finished by McGillvary.
Widdop’s conversion cut New Zealand’s advantage to 12-10, but only briefly. McGillvary barged Jason Nightingale into touch before the winger released the ball to Kata, whose touchdown was ruled out by Sutton on Hicks’ advice.
But moments later an outstanding offload by Manu Ma’u sent Rapana galloping clear and he got past Lomax to score.
Kahu’s kick hit a post and remarkably England were level on the hour, Widdop tipping the ball on to Ryan Hall, who produced a superb one-handed finish.
Widdop’s goal from wide out made it 16-16.
New Zealand regained the lead with 16 minutes left when Johnson landed a snap drop goal.
England had chances to level from close range but opted not to take them, Dan Sarginson knocked on just short and then Widdop was off-target with 40 metres out so the Kiwis held on.