Chris Wood is expected to start in Thursday's second leg in Lima - and that could provide a vital physiological edge for the All Whites.
Wood was a shock withdrawal before the match, due to his still suspect hamstring, and the sight of him marooned on the bench as the match kicked off was a deflating one for the majority of the crowd.
But the All Whites coped without him, and then his introduction in the 73rd minute changed the dimension of today's match.
The crowd roared - one of the most deafening cheers of the evening - and his sheer presence gave New Zealand hope, while the Peru defence, which had looked so assured for most of the match, suddenly seemed to get the wobbles.
The All Whites had some late chances, to Kosta Barbarouses and Ryan Thomas, with Thomas' probably the best opportunity of the match to break the 0-0 deadlock.
On a personal note, Wood was relieved to get through his short stint.
"[It felt] all good, fine," said Wood of his hamstring. "It was feeling good out there so I am feeling good, confident."
Wood almost made an immediate impact, as he came on just as New Zealand were awarded a free kick 25 metres from goal, a similar range to his memorable strike against the Solomon Islands in September.
He hit it well, forcing a good save from the Peruvian keeper, before the referee ordered a retake, which Wood blasted into the wall.
Wood had hardly trained throughout the week - coach Anthony Hudson admitted they had been nursing him through - and so his benching wasn't a last minute call.
"[The decision] was made," said Wood. "They knew I could do a job coming off the bench. [Now] we have to wait and see, see how it settles down."
Wood, like most of his teammates, played down the result, emphasising that the job is far from done.
"It was a good result, it wasn't too bad," said Wood. "It leaves it all open so it wasn't too bad."