Azhar Ali and Haris Sohail shared an unbroken partnership of 64 for the third wicket as Pakistan recovered from the early loss of both openers to reach 81-2 at tea on the second day of the third and final Test in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.
Pakistan still trail New Zealand's first innings total of 274 by 193 runs with eight wickets intact.
This is the deciding in a fascinating series which currently stands 1-1.
Azhar, who is unbeaten on 34 from 91 balls, and Sohail (30 from 81) came together in the sixth over of the innings after a double strike from New Zealand's pace spearhead Trent Boult had reduced Pakistan to 17-2.
In the fourth full over after the break, Imam took his eye off a Trent bouncer and was hit on the back of the helmet. Next ball, he edged to Southee at third slip and was on his way for just nine.
It was Watling, with an unbeaten 77, who carried New Zealand's overnight total from 229-7 and added an invaluable 45 runs over the last three wickets to frustrate Pakistan.
During his five-and-a-half-hour knock Watling, when on 66, passed 3,000 runs in his 56th Test.
Watling, dropped on nine by Imam off Bilal Asif on Monday, and debutant Will Somerville extended their eighth wicket partnership to 45 before Bilal Asif took all three final wickets to finish with 5-65, his second five wicket haul in five Tests.
Watling, playing his 56th Test, reached his 16th Test half-century with a boundary off medium pacer Hasan Ali after facing 199 balls.
In all he batted for five hours and 32 minutes, hitting four boundaries.
Leg-spinner Yasir Shah, in his 33rd Test, failed to add to his three wickets on Monday, leaving him two short of becoming the fastest man to reach 200 Test scalps.
The current record has stood for 82 years after Australia's Clarrie Grimmett reached 200 wickets in 36 Tests in 1936.
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