Extra time was required to separate the sides after the scores were locked at 2-2 and then 3-3 following the added period.
Tahiti goalkeeper Atanui Tetihia then became the toast of his team mates with two saves, from Dylan Manickum and Daniel Koprivcic, as the Tahitians won the shoot-out 4-3.
The Heitapu Hunter-coached side had conceded only three goals prior to this match and breaching such a tight rearguard appeared to be the main challenge facing New Zealand coach Matt Chandler and his men.
But the Tahitians are not without ability in the attacking third either, a fact the Futsal Whites found out to their cost when a Gaby Kavera goal in the eighth minute had them 1-0 down by the halftime interval.
They were left with an even steeper hill to climb three minutes after the restart when Michel Maihuri put Tahiti two goals ahead.
The Futsal Whites now needed to score at least twice to keep their hopes of making the final alive – a feat managed against Tahiti only by New Caledonia at this tournament so far – and the odds appeared against them as the well-organised Tahiti defence held firm.
But Koprivcic finally found a way through from a Dylan Manickum cross in the 25th minute and New Zealand drew level shortly after when Nathan Robertson swivelled and slipped the ball under goalkeeper Tetihia in the 28th minute.
Despite both teams putting on plenty of pressure in the remainder of normal time, there was no further score and an extra ten minutes were needed to decide the outcome.
The extra period was just as closely contested as regular time had been but New Zealand managed to find the net again just before the interval when captain Marvin Eakins poked home a Miro Major pass at the far post.
But Tahiti were not about to give up their World Cup dream and were back in the game soon after the break, Kavera notching his second to make it 3-3 and set up an exciting finale.
The stage was set for someone to become a hero but one did not emerge at that stage and the result was then left to be resolved in the lottery of the penalty shoot-out, when custodian Tetihia stepped up to achieve legendary status with his saves.
New Zealand coach Matt Chandler:
It was just one of those games really – we were 2-0 down and did well to get back to 2-2 and then went in front. We’ve lost by just one penalty shot and you wouldn’t pick a guy like Daniel Koprivcic to be the one to miss because he’s such a good player. To go out in the semi-final on one penalty is tough but we will have to live with it. But I thought we played really well and showed a lot of commitment and spirit.
Tahiti coach Heitapu Hunter:
I don’t know how we have won today, we were quite lucky. We came sixth last year and now we are going to the final – that has always been our dream and now it is coming true. I think the fact that I am more experienced as a coach has made a difference because it was my first time at this tournament last year. I knew that if I kept learning we would be able to do better. Anything can happen in a final – I think you don’t need to think too much, you just have to go for it.
New Zealand – Tahiti Match Summary click here (PDF)