The scoreline of 20-15 in favour of the World Champions only told half the story, as the English were the better team throughout, but will rue the failure to convert try-scoring opportunities against the All Blacks.
Gloucester Rugby trio Ben Morgan, Jonny May and the departing Freddie Burns put in massive shifts and the England squad on the whole, without their Aviva Premiership finalists, deserved more from a brave performance in Auckland.
Burns kicked four penalties out of four, whilst Morgan and May made plenty of sparkling breaks against their illustrious opponents, and all looked well at home in the top class test arena.
England started the brighter in Auckland, and a sharp break from Chris Robshaw saw Ma'a Nonu cynically pull back James Haskell in support, surely a yellow was deserved, but Burns confidently chipped over from the tee.
That was then cancelled out as the All Blacks' pivot Aaron Cruden kicked a three points of his own with England offside from a neat Ben Smith break.
Shortly after, Manu Tuilagi had to be alert to cover as Smith chipped through for Dagg as the game was played at a blistering pace and England's combinations began to click.
Burns then notched himself a pair of penalties from impressive range to put the tourists into a 3-9 lead, as the All Blacks struggled to cope with England's tempo of play.
Cruden then reduced the deficit to 6-9 after Robshaw infringed at the breakdown and the sparring match continued. The outside half from Waikato then repeated the trick to level the scores at nine apiece going into the break.
With the All Blacks looking rusty on their first outing of 2014, England sensed a real opportunity and the second half was a real tussle, littered with handling errors and picky decision making which stifled any continuity.
With England under pressure near their own try line after Jerome Kaino knocked on with a score imminent, Ben Morgan made a stunning break off the base to make 30m, which gave Kyle Eastmond the chance to scuttle brilliantly past Nonu but the Bath Rugby man's pass found no one with a score looking certain.
On the hour mark, Burns and May combined and the winger chipped ahead to blitz away and capitalise on Beauden Barrett's slip, the All Blacks cynically killed the ball and didn't realise the England wing, and Burns knocked over his fourth penalty although no yellow card was forthcoming for the hosts.
Cruden, then almost immediately responded with a penalty of his own to level the scores at twelve apiece, and then the Kiwis upped the tempo to earn another chance from the tee, which saw Marland Yarde sinbinned, and Cruden obliged.
With Burns withdrawn from the action, Danny Cipriani's sharp break was rewarded with a penalty and the returning pivot confidently levelled the scores.
The All Blacks then forced Joe Marler to hold on in English territory, and Cruden caught England napping for a quick tap. As England scrambled, Wyatt Crockett's short range effort was just short, but from the next scrum, the ball was neatly worked to Conrad Smith who dived over in the corner.
Although Cruden failed to convert, there was only seconds on the clock and the All Blacks saw out time to scrape the win however, with the cavalry arriving for next week's test in Dunedin, it would be the English camp feeling slightly happier.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees told GRTV after the win in Brive that the game could have been a tough one to get up for, but that his Gloucester team mates did themselves proud on the night and got a big result.
Reflecting on the 31-20 victory in Brive on Thursday evening, Director of Rugby David Humphreys said that clinching a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final was the overall aim and duly achieved.
Gloucester may have already clinched a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys wants his side to finish the pool stages on a winning note in Brive on Thursday evening.
Speaking after Saturday's win, James Hudson was happy to record a bonus-point win against a hugely physical Oyonnax side as Gloucester secured their passage into the European Rugby Challenge Cup Quarter Finals
Billy Burns was a try scorer on his first European start for Gloucester and, speaking after the game, admitted that it was good to get the five points although there are still things to work on before the trip to Brive.
Connacht's 30-20 win in La Rochelle on Saturday evening means that they are the third best placed runners up and will come to Kingsholm for the quarter-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup in early April.
Gloucester Rugby today confirmed that supporters who have renewed their Club Membership for next season by March 27th 2015 will receive a free ticket for this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final at Kingsholm in April.