Plymouth striker Rory Fallon headed home the only goal of the game on the stroke of half-time, while goalkeeper Mark Paston also saved a penalty to see the All Whites through to South Africa.
In front of a capacity crowd at Wellington's Westpac Stadium, New Zealand repeated the efforts of the national team of 1982.
All white on the night: Plymouth striker Rory Fallon nods a memorable winner to secure New Zealand's path to South Africa
The 35,194 boisterous fans, the largest crowd to watch a footballmatch in New Zealand, made their presence felt with a continuouscacophony that started well before the opening whistle and continuedlong after referee Jorge Larrionda blew for full-time.
Rory Fallon: New Zealand have to make sure we're all white on the nightCaptain Rooney: Manchester United star Wayne will skipper England after John Terry ruled out for Brazil clashEven victory against Ireland may not be enough to save France's lame duck, Raymond Domenech The result gave the All Whites a 1-0 aggregate win following the goalless draw in Manama on October 10.
The hosts were under early pressure conceding two corners and havingdefender Ben Sigmund yellow-carded in just the third minute.
They gave Bahrain goalkeeper Sayed Mohammed Jaffar his first test inthe eighth minute when a Shane Smeltz header across the goalmouth froma Leo Bertos free-kick found captain Ryan Nelsen, but his loopingheader found the top of the net.
Celtic striker Chris Killen almost broke the deadlock in the 19thminute when he sent a delightful left-foot volley from the edge of thepenalty area beyond the Bahrain goalkeeper but off the crossbar.
Spot on: Goalkeeper Mark Paston turned super hero for New Zealand after expertly saving a Bahrain penalty
Soon after attacking midfielder Bertos, having made his presencefelt with a number of early runs at the defence, sent a right-footedfree-kick just wide of Jaffar's left-hand post.
All Whites goalkeeper Paston was on hand on the half-hour to divelow to his left and deny a snap volley in front of goal by Bahrainfront man Jaycee John.
Jaffar then produced a superb reflex save from a goalbound header byFallon with half-time closing in, with Bertos again involved in theplay in providing the cross.
All Rover it: Blackburn and New Zealand skipper Ryan Nelsen shuts out Bahrain's Jaycee John Okwunwanne
But that was all in vain in the 45th minute when, from a Bertoscorner, Fallon rose highest in the six-yard area to send a powerfulheader beyond Jaffar.
On the balance of play the All Whites half-time lead was deserved,with Bertos and a Tony Lochhead providing most of the sting in the homeside's attacking forays.
The drama intensified in the 50th minute when referee Larriondapointed to the penalty spot after Lochhead fouled Abdulla Ismaeel Omar.
However, the combination of a poor strike from Sayed Mohamed Adnanand a perfectly-timed dive by Paston to his right kept the All Whitesin front.
Party time: Rory Fallon's winner sends New Zealand to their first finals since Spain in 1982
New Zealand captain and Blackburn Rovers defender Ryan Nelsenincreasingly stamped his class on the match, organising the defence asthe visitors pushed forward in search of an equaliser.
Smeltz came close to doubling the tally with 20 minutes to play but his close-range strike flashed wide.
Killen then sent an overhead kick on the six-yard box high over the cross bar with nine minutes remaining.
Desperate defending from All Whites pair Ivan Vicelich and Nelsen spurred the home side on in the closing minutes.
In the end it was one shot for glory, and Fallon and New Zealand, took it.
Rory Fallon: New Zealand have to make sure we're all white on the nightCaptain Rooney: Manchester United star Wayne will skipper England after John Terry ruled out for Brazil clashEven victory against Ireland may not be enough to save France's lame duck, Raymond Domenech
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