Adam Rossington’s century and an unbeaten 83 from Matt Critchley rescued Essex after a false start to their crunch LV= Insurance County Championship clash against Hampshire.
If Essex lose their penultimate game this week, Surrey can retain their Division One crown by beating Northamptonshire and Tom Westley’s side lurched to 132 for five after winning the toss at Chelmsford.
But Rossington, who was averaging 18.8 with the bat this season when he strode to the crease, thumped 10 fours and two sixes, contributing 104 to an important 177-run stand with all-rounder Critchley.
Rossington edged a big swipe late on at Mohammad Abbas, who had earlier castled Sir Alastair Cook for a three-ball duck, but the wicketkeeper’s Essex-best helped his side collect two batting bonus points.
Surrey also scooped a couple of points thanks to their bowlers, chiefly Tom Lawes, who took three for 24 as Northamptonshire slid from 106 for two to 171 for six on a rain-shortened day at the Kia Oval.
There were also wickets for Jordan Clark, Daniel Worrall and Jamie Overton, who gave Surrey a scare after leaving the field in his third over feeling his hip before returning to snare Saif Zaib.
Former India batter Karun Nair went to stumps unbeaten on 51 after Northamptonshire were invited to bat first on a day where only 63.4 overs were possible.
There were four fewer deliveries but a lot more action at Lord’s, where Oliver Hannon-Dalby’s five-wicket haul restricted struggling Middlesex to a paltry 121 before Warwickshire closed on 72 for four.
Middlesex started the day two points above second-bottom Kent and after their batters were put in and floundered in bowler-friendly conditions, the outgoing Tim Murtagh dragged them back into the contest.
The 42-year-old seamer, playing at the home of cricket for the last time prior to his retirement from professional cricket at the end of the season, took three for 17 as Middlesex took one bowling point.
Kent are bidding to move out of the relegation places this week but despite winning the toss, Tom Lammonby’s 109 – his first hundred of the season – put Somerset on top on 214 for two after 53.2 overs.
Arafat Bhuiyan was the only frontline Kent bowler to take a wicket on the opening day while part-timer Daniel Bell-Drummond atoned for dropping Lammonby on 76 by having the opener caught behind at Taunton.
The inclement weather ruined any prospect of play between Lancashire and Nottinghamshire at Emirates Old Trafford while all three Division Two fixtures were heavily impacted by rain.
Sussex, a day on from their 12-point deduction from the England and Wales Cricket Board that has almost certainly ended their promotion hopes, did not get on to the field at Derbyshire.
Leicestershire, fresh from their Metro Bank One-Day Cup victory at the weekend, need a win to stay in the hunt for a top-two finish and with it a place in Division One next year.
They reduced Yorkshire to 155 for nine after bowling first at Grace Road, where Will Davis finished with four for 28 while Finlay Bean top-scored with 40 to go past 1,000 runs for the season.
Second-placed Worcestershire, who began the day 21 points ahead of Leicestershire, reached 104 for one against already-promoted Durham at New Road.