The Football Ferns were minutes away from securing a valuable point in their opening match at the Fifa Women's World Cup in France, but the Netherlands struck late to claim the spoils and break Kiwi hearts.
Jill Roord proved the hero for the Dutch, the reigning European champions, getting to a looping ball in front of goal ahead of Ferns defender Abby Erceg and keeper Erin Nayler and nodding it over the line in the second minute of stoppage time to give her side a 1-0 win.
The Ferns created three excellent chances in the first hour of the match on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT), but were left to rue not taking them, with Sarah Gregorius' miss from point-blank range six minutes into the second half the one that will hurt the most
With centre backs Erceg and Rebekah Stott leading a strong defensive effort, the Ferns looked to have done enough to leave Stade Océane in Le Havre with a draw, only to concede a winner in stoppage time for the second time in the space of a week.
As Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman put it after the match: "Football is not fair".
She added: "You just want to win the game and you want to score a goal. We were looking for a goal and they were looking for a draw, so I'm happy that we scored a goal".
It was no surprise that the Ferns were looking for a draw by the end of the match, as it would have been a fillip against the more-fancied Netherlands, who came into the World Cup on the back of a 3-0 win over Australia, while the Kiwis had finished their preparations with a disappointing loss to Wales.
But until the final half hour, Tom Sermanni's side looked more likely to break the deadlock, marrying a compact defensive structure with some of the best in-possession play they've produced this year.
"I think we've just got to look at the positive things that we did," Sermanni said afterwards.
"We had a game plan and I think the players adhered to the game plan magnificently, and their effort, and their courage, and their discipline was first class, so we've got to take those positives away from the game, and not let the heartbreak of that late goal determine what we do going forward."
Ferns midfielder Olivia Chance hit the crossbar 11 minutes in, shooting from the edge of the box after combining with Rosie White to win the ball of Dutch centre back Dominique Bloodworth, who would later scuff a shot right in front of goal in the dying minutes of the first half.
White then tested Dutch keeper Sari van Veenendaal in the 34th minute, running up the middle of the pitch and onto a ball from Gregorius before firing off a shot from distance, which was palmed away.
Gregorius became the third Fern to go close early in the second half, failing to make proper contact with Besty Hassett's ball from the right, which found her in front of van Veenendaal's goal at the end of a move which began with fullback CJ Bott winning the ball high up the pitch in the right-hand corner.
The Netherlands' front three posed a threat throughout, with winger Lieke Martens earning player of the match honours and striker Vivianne Miedema going close as they finished strong against a tiring Ferns outfit that was still managing to deny them clear-cut chances.
The breakthrough finally came two minutes into stoppage time, when Merel van Dongen sent the ball in from the left of the area, with Lineth Beerensteyn towering over Ali Riley at the back post to win it and send it looping up in front of goal where fellow substitute Roord nodded home.
Next up for the Ferns on Sunday (NZT) are Canada, who began their campaign with a 1-0 win over Cameroon and are unbeaten in 10 matches this year.
AT A GLANCE
Netherlands 1 (Jill Roord 90'+2) Football Ferns 0. HT: 0-0