England crashed to an embarrassing 58 all out before the Kiwis closed on 175-3 with captain and Yorkshire overseas signing Williamson making 91 not out off 177 balls.
Williamson won the toss but could hardly have envisaged the carnage to come as only a defiant last-wicket stand helped England scramble past the lowest total in their 141-year Test history.
Trent Boult (6-32) and Tim Southee (4-25) proved unstoppable with the pink ball on day one of the first day-night Test in New Zealand at Eden Park, until Craig Overton and James Anderson came up with belated and brief resistance.
The new-ball pair wreaked havoc as the tourists first marginally managed to pass Test cricket’s all-time lowest total – 26 by New Zealand against them here in 1955.
After falling to 27-9, it seemed a long shot England could get anywhere near beating their own historical low of 45 all out against Australia in Sydney in 1887.
But No 9 Overton (33no), playing here only because Ben Stokes’s stiff back meant he may not be able to bowl, had other ideas - scoring more than half England’s runs as they instead recorded merely their sixth-lowest total.
The tourists were in big trouble almost immediately, after being put in on a sunny afternoon.
Boult’s new-ball swing had Alastair Cook edging some away movement to second slip in the fifth over - and then Joe Root, having pushed himself back up to No 3, fell for a six-ball duck when he went to drive but was done through the gate as the left-armer bowled him off-stump.
Boult produced another beauty to have Dawid Malan caught-behind by a diving BJ Watling, and Southee got in on the act when Mark Stoneman also edged more swing to the wicketkeeper.
Stokes, back here for his first Test in more than six months after his enforced absence from the Ashes, could not halt the slide.
He was bowled for a duck by one that snaked back through his defences from Boult, and Jonny Bairstow was scoreless, too, when he pushed a return catch to Southee.
Chris Woakes was next to go, bowled by Boult, and Moeen Ali went the same way - fooled by a yorker from Southee.
Stuart Broad’s attempt to counter-attack resulted only in a blinding catch in the gully by Williamson off Southee, and the fifth duck of the innings.
Overton refused to go quietly, though, and was unbeaten when Anderson was last out - lobbing a catch to point off Boult to end a partnership of 31.
England missed an instant chance to return fire at the start of the reply when substitute fielder Liam Livingstone’s shy at the stumps from cover flew wide - with Tom Latham short of his ground after Jeet Raval pushed for a single first ball off Anderson.
Root then dropped a chance at second slip, when Raval would have gone cheaply and Broad would have had his landmark 400th Test wicket.
Instead, Anderson had Raval caught-behind at the other end as New Zealand reached a tentative 27-1 from 19 overs by mid-session.
By dinner, the hosts had eased in front on 88-1 but Broad finally became only the second English bowler to reach 400 Test wickets.
He followed his team-mate, and all-time national leading wicket-taker, Anderson to the feat when he had Latham clipping a catch to midwicket at the start of the final session.
Anderson then claimed his second wicket as Ross Taylor fell for 20 with the New Zealand total on 123.
England 58 (T A Boult 6-32, T G Southee 4-25), New Zealand 175-3 (KS Williamson 91 no).