By Liam Napier in Birmingham
Flirting with fire throughout this World Cup, the Black Caps were always going to be burnt at some stage.
Like an inquisitive toddler repeatedly told not to touch the furnace, the Black Caps keep creeping back towards the flame, making the same mistakes, revealing the same batting frailties. They now have their first scar of this tournament to prove it.
Only so often could New Zealand dance with defeat and not expect to fall.
Miraculous escapes, those witnessed against Bangladesh, South Africa and the West Indies, make for great theatre, sure. But they are not sustainable. Not on the World Cup stage.
With three of New Zealand's top five worryingly out of touch, eventually the pressure would tell.
Today just happened to be that day, but it has been coming.
Had the Black Caps picked Ish Sodhi on a turning Edgbaston track, this could be a different story. Certainly a closer tale.
Sticking to conservative selections instead proved costly. Mitchell Santner's turn during his threatening 0-38 spell encouraged Kane 'golden arm' Williamson to trundle through eight overs, luring Mohammad Hafeez into a false shot.
Imagine what Sodhi, New Zealand's most attacking spin option, could have done here.
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In acts of desperation Williamson used eight bowlers, even giving Colin Munro one crack.
New Zealand's major issues lie with the bat, though.
Today was a bridge too far for batting geniuses Williamson and Ross Taylor. The best three-four at this tournament can't bail out Munro and Martin Guptill every match.
Runs from the openers are imperative. Non-negotiable, even. That isn't happening, and it's crippling.
Defeat in these circumstances, with Tom Latham continuing to fail in the middle order to left-arm seam, is inevitable.
Birmingham felt more like Islamabad as the sea of green and white rapturously roared every first innings edge, catch, wicket, diving save; every second innings run. The oohs and ahhs seemed amplified over speakers. They were not. This was a piercing atmosphere.
Today at least, the Black Caps had few answers to silence waves of Pakistan support.
Pakistan love to turn up at World Cups against New Zealand. Seven wins from nine games it is now.
Forced into sudden death territory from here on, Pakistan wanted it more; their desperation evident from the outset.
From impressive 19-year-old Shaheen Afridi, who snared 3-28, and Mohammad Amir with the new ball to leg spinner Shadab Khan, they bowled beautifully to expose New Zealand's designated run makers.
Williamson attempted to dig in, as he always does, but when the stoic skipper fell for 41 at 83-5, New Zealand's hopes sunk.
The talisman could not save them this time. Nor should Williamson need to time and again.
Such was their horror start, the Black Caps needed 32 overs to reach 100-5. Pakistan got there inside 23, and cruised to the finish with five balls to spare.
Pakistan's revival party was subdued, briefly, by Jimmy Neesham's brilliant rearguard action.
The all-rounder deserved a century but his highest ODI score, 97 not out from 112 balls, gave New Zealand a puncher's chance.
In a face-saving 132-run stand, a New Zealand World Cup record for the sixth wicket, with Colin de Grandhomme who made 64, Neesham delivered a Ben Stokes-esque performance to push the Black Caps through to a well under par 237-6.
Much like Stokes for England against Australia at Lord's yesterday, Neesham's knock will be largely lost in defeat.
New Zealand had chances with the ball, Ferguson and Santner toiling without luck - Latham dropping one sharp chance standing up to Santner with Babar Azam on 38.
Azam pushed through to a classy, unbeaten century but New Zealand never had enough runs, Pakistan proving this surface held no major demons.
The eerie, perhaps, scary part of this result harks back to the 1992 World Cup. Pakistan are following the same script from that tournament, and with Bangladesh and Afghanistan to come, their hopes of furthering that romantic theme to burst into the knockouts remains very much alive.
From New Zealand's perspective, whether Pakistan go on to win this tournament, as they did the '92 edition, is irrelevant. The damage is done. They slip back to the pack.
The Black Caps are not yet locked in the semifinals. With the in-form Australians at Lord's on Sunday and England, desperately fighting for survival, in Durham on Wednesday, the danger now is New Zealand hit the skids to lose all momentum and confidence.
Steadfastly sticking to the same team has come back to bite. Other than Sodhi, Henry Nicholls continues to sit idle as blind faith in Munro, averaging 22 in this format since 2018 and not passing 24 in his last five World Cup innings, fast moves from stubborn to sabotage.
Collectively how the Black Caps respond to this disappointment will define prospects.
They are not doomed. Nor does one defeat represent panic stations. This result does, however, offer perspective about the pecking order, and where New Zealand sits.
Mental fortitude New Zealand had in their three heart-jerking victories.
They must now summon that backbone - and more - as true heavyweight contests loom.