After Sarah Gregorius's goal had given the Kiwis the lead in the 18th minute, the catalyst for the turnaround came 18 minutes after the restart when Alex's cross was headed home by Jill.
The result means that New Zealand can no longer qualify for the semi-finals, while England need a draw against Japan to ensure that they cannot be caught by Mexico.
It was England made the early pressing and when Kiwi skipper cleared Rachel Yankey’s cross for a corner in the third minute, the OFC champions were placed firmly on the back foot. Three corners followed in swift succession with Jill Scott heading over from No3.
Ellen White had a good chance to at least force a save from Jenny Bindon in the 12th minute when bearing down on goal, but the Arsenal striker delayed her shot and Abby Erceg was able to shepherd the ball away from danger.
England were made to regret not making the pressure count when Gregorius got between Casey Stoney and Rachel Unitt to bundle home Amber Hearn’s cross from close range.
Powell’s side responded positively and while Fara Williams and Rachel Yankey both had shots from distance, both failed to test Bindon. Indeed, it was the Football Ferns who came closest again when Gregorius once again got in between Stoney and Unitt, with the latter making a last-gasp tackle to deny the pacy forward a goalscoring opportunity.
Both sides made a change at half time with Hayley Moorwood replacing Amy Bowen for the Kiwis and Powell opting to bring on Carney in place of Aluko.
The first action of the second half came two minutes after the restart when Gregorius’s cross from the right was headed narrowly over by Hearn, who had managed to jump above Alex Scott.
England were having plenty of play and possession but were struggling to create any real chances. With the pace of Gregorius and Betsy Hassett, the Three Lions defence were having to keep on their guard.
However, England’s breakthrough came in the 63rd minute when Alex Scott’s right wing cross was headed home by Jill Scott. The goal inspired the favourites, who created two excellent opportunities within quick succession. First Kelly Smith’s left footed drive flew narrowly over and Ellen White went close with a header.
Herdman made an attacking substitution, bringing on Rosie White for Ria Percival and she almost had an immediate impact, but failed to connect properly with Ali Riley’s right wing cross.
With ten minutes to go, the game could have gone either way, but the influential Jill Scott refused to give up. First her cutback found Ellen White who forced a fine save from Bindon and a minute later, the Everton midfielder showed tremendous vision to pick out the onrushing Jessica Clarke who blasted the ball into the roof of the net in the 81st minute.
With New Zealand pushing forward for an equaliser Fara Williams had a great opportunity to put the game beyond doubt, but she was denied by Bindon’s outstretched leg. A third goal may have been harsh on the Football Ferns, who ensured a competitive contest throughout the 90 minutes.
Player of the match: Alex Scott