Hamish Bond and Eric Murray rumbled closer to retaining Olympic gold but uncertainty has washed through the rest of New Zealand's rowing team in Rio.
Defending champions Bond and Murray become the first Kiwi crew to book a final berth, and were followed later by a hurried lightweight men's four.
However, the powerful New Zealand team received a wake-up call when both double sculls crews bowed out in the semi-finals, including world champions Eve MacFarlane and Zoe Stevenson.
It means three of New Zealand's 11 crews have been eliminated from medal contention, with the others sitting in various stages of qualification.
New Zealand have a pre-Games goal of matching the five medals they claimed in London four years ago.
Unless there is a remarkable boilover, one appears destined to be gold, to the peerless pair.
Bond and Murray effortlessly won their semi-final in light chop on Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon,
Now unbeaten in 68 consecutive races, they powered to the front and stayed there, seeing off the British challenge of Alan Sinclair and Stewart Innes by three lengths.
Murray sent a warning to his rivals, believing their experience and big-race know how will hold them in good stead in Friday's decider.
"We have learned what we need to do to win," he told NZ Newswire.
"Once you know how to win, that is your benchmark. We can handle all the training, now we know what needs to be done."
The lightweight four of James Hunter, Alistair Bond, Peter Taylor and James Lassche advanced in contrasting fashion.
They finished third in their semi-final behind Italy and France but did enough in the second half of the race to move past Great Britain and into a final featuring six evenly-matched boats.
Both double sculls crews finished fourth, with MacFarlane and Stevenson missing out by just 0.05sec in their dramatic semi-final.
Earlier, single scullers Mahe Drysdale and Emma Twigg saw off key Czech rivals to post impressive quarter-final wins.
Drysdale claimed early bragging rights over four-time world champion Ondrej Synek with a resounding finish after trailing for the first two-thirds of the race.
The veteran Kiwi powered ahead before the 1500m mark and left the two-time Olympic silver medallist in his wake.
However, Drysdale was reluctant to call it a psychological blow after notching the second-quickest overall time behind European champion Damir Martin of Croatia.
"You saw Ondrej gave it away in the last bit so you can't read too much into it," Drysdale said.
"I always want to win. I'm not going to smash myself to do it but I was feeling pretty good so it was nice to get in front."
Twigg headed off 35-year-old defending champion Miroslava Knapkova after trailing through 500m.
The three-time Olympian built pressure through the middle stages and was three boat lengths clear by the finish. Her time was the eighth-quickest.