Wellington: An epic double century by Brendon McCullum and a world record-breaking stand with BJ Watling carried New Zealand from the brink of defeat to the edge of a series-saving result against India on Monday.

Rescuer McCullum steered New Zealand to 571-6 at stumps on the fourth day of the second Test at Wellington's Basin Reserve, leading India by 325 with one day remaining.

The captain, battling back, leg and shoulder injuries and having been in the middle for nearly 12 hours, was unbeaten on 281 with Jimmy Neesham on 67.

It was a remarkable comeback after New Zealand were reeling in their second innings at 94-5 on Sunday, against the world number two Test team. The hosts lead the two-Test series 1-0.

The McCullum-Watling partnership lasted 123 overs with a low-risk approach as they slowly but surely wrested control from the Indian bowlers, forcing Mahendra Singh Dhoni to set run-saving rather than attacking fields.

Brendon McCullum
Brendon McCullum raises his bat after scoring his double-century. Pic/ AFP

As sensibly as McCullum batted, there was enough of his innate boldness to tick off each 50 with a thundering stroke -- sixes to reach 100 and 250 and fours to pass 50, 150 and 200.

The exceptional partnership was broken when the new ball was taken just after tea and Watling fell lbw to Mohammed Shami for a career-best 124 after setting a world-record sixth-wicket stand of 352 with McCullum.

The previous record was 351 set by Sri Lankans Mahela and Prasanna Jayawardene against India in 2009.

It was also the third-best New Zealand stand for any wicket, while McCullum joins Glenn Turner as the only New Zealanders to score two double-centuries in the same series. Turner achieved his feat in the West Indies in 1972.

McCullum, who scored 224 to set up New Zealand's 40-run victory in the first Test, and made 225 against India at Hyderabad in 2010, equalled Stephen Fleming as only the second New Zealander to score three career double centuries.

He finished day four 19 runs short of becoming the first New Zealander to score 300, with the current record standing as Martin Crowe's 299 against Sri Lanka on the same ground in 1991.

McCullum said when the New Zealand team was announced that all-rounder Neesham was making his Test debut for his bowling skills, but it was his batting that proved most valuable.

Coming in at the fall of Watling's wicket and with India fired up with the new ball, he offered two sharp chances to the slips cordon before building a 125-run stand with McCullum.

For India, Zaheer Khan has 3-129 and Mohammed Shami 2-136.