England survived a final-quarter fightback from New Zealand to record a 42-38 victory over the Silver Ferns in the first Test match in Rotorua.
England had moved ten goals ahead with 12 minutes to go in the game, before the hosts closed to within two.
But Anna Mayes's side held on to clinch a win, and return to winning ways after two defeats in Australia.
The tourists had lost to New Zealand by just one goal at the summer's 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
"We came out firing, we're still hurting from the Commonwealth Games where it went the other way. It went from a 10-goal lead down to a two, so we just had to withstand that pressure at the end," said England captain Jade Clarke.
England play the second Test match with New Zealand on Friday (06:40 GMT).