Winger Carla Hohepa opened the scoring with a converted first-half try but Charlotte Barras' score allowed England to come back to 10-10 midway through the second half.
But there was to be no fairytale ending for the majority of supporters inside a packed Twickenham Stoop as Kelly Brazier's penalty sealed a fourth straight World Cup victory.
In a ferociously contested opening to the match, it was little surprise when fly-half Anna Richards was yellow carded after persistent infringement.
But even when prop Mel Bosman was yellow carded eight minutes later, England could not make their numerical advantage count.
Instead it was New Zealand who opened the scoring when Hohepa danced her way through the England defence with Brazier adding the extras.
Opposite number Katy McLean though was off target with two penalties before the break to leave the Black Fearns firmly in the driving seat.
Stand-off McLean did make amends with a successful penalty just after the break but the game could have been put out of sight but for a wonderful covering tackle by lock Joanna McGilchrist on Hohepa.
New Zealand were dominant at this point but they only had an extra Brazier penalty to show for their efforts after some full-blooded English defence.
England though forced their way back into the game as the forwards inched their way towards the line before captain Catherine Spencer helped release Barras in the corner.
McLean's fine conversion drew the scores level and had the Stoop rocking.
But New Zealand's response was instant and with 14 minutes remaining Brazier captialised on an English offence to re-establish the Black Fearns' lead.
Although there was plenty of time for England to mount a second comeback, New Zealand's superb territorial game and a succession of turnover stopped the hosts from getting out of their own half.
And a final knock-on in the dying seconds gave the Kiwis the opportunity to boot the ball out of play to celebrate yet another World Cup victory.