In a breakthrough that followed an intense hour-long emergency huddle, countries agreed on a consensus text outlining the road to a new global warming pact to be signed in Paris by 2015.
In the Warsaw text, negotiators notably replaced the word "commitments" for nationally-determined emissions cuts, with "contributions".
These must be put forward "well in advance" of the green light.
"It took a lot of effort, you could see a lot of drama and different interests, but in the end... people saw there was a real risk that we would not manage to make the progress that we so badly needed," said European climate envoy Connie Hedegaard.
Due to enter into effect in 2020, the Paris deal will be the first to bind all nations to curbing atmosphere-polluting greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal, oil and gas.
But getting there is unlikely to be simple.
"As the intense discussions showed, there are serious differences between countries on the tough issues involved in getting a climate deal in Paris in 2015," said climate analyst Alden Meyer of the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists.
Another bone of contention in the talks is finance.
Developing countries want wealthy states to show how they intend keeping a pledge to bolster public funding for climate aid to $100 billion (74 billion euros) by 2020 -- up from $10 billion a year in the period 2010-12.
They also seek more immediate-term help, with China and the Group of 77 developing countries making a last-minute pitch Saturday for pledges of $70 billion per year on the table by 2016.
Still grappling with the global economic crisis, the developed world is wary of committing to a detailed long- or short-term funding plan.
The text did not mention any figures or set any milestones.
"This conference should have been a finance conference," Bangladeshi negotiator Qamrul Chowdhury told AFP. "All we got were peanuts."
Delegates also compromised on the finance text, which "urges" developed nations to mobilise public funds "at increasing levels" from the 2010-12 period.
Negotiators also finally managed to resolve a third contentious issue by agreeing to create a "loss and damage" mechanism that will "address" future climate harm that vulnerable countries say is no longer avoidable.
The structure, mandate and effectiveness of the "Warsaw international mechanism" must be reviewed in three years' time.