Tall Blacks centre Jack Salt and his Virginia Cavaliers are into the semi-finals of US college basketball's national championship, known as 'March Madness'.
But they needed a miracle buzzer-beating play at the end of regulation time to force overtime, before emerging 80-75 winners over Purdue University.
Salt scored five points and grabbed seven rebounds - four on the offensive end - off the bench, as his team fulfilled their top seeding in the tournament's South Region. They now await the winners of Auburn University vs University of Kentucky in the Final Four.
After trailing by one point at halftime, University of Virginia led by as many as eight during the second half, but conceded seven unanswered points to fall behind with 3m 56s remaining.
They were still down two with five seconds left, when guard Ty Jerome missed a free throw and forward Mamadi Diakite slapped the offensive board back to teammate Kihei Clark.
The diminutive point guard found Diakite unmarked with a return pass and he coolly slotted a mid-range jumper as time expired.
Virginia took a lead with 28 seconds left in overtime and held their opponents scoreless down the stretch to advance.
No Kiwi has ever won the national title - Kirk Penney helped University of Wisconsin to the 2000 Final Four in his freshman year.
Former Tall Fern Jillian Harmon helped Stanford University to the women's final in 2008.