In-form opener Tom Westley hit 90 and Jack Shantry took seven wickets as Essex were all out for 217 against Worcestershire on the third day of their rain-affected LV=County Championship Division Two clash at New Road.
Westley's composed knock off 180 balls came as Essex had threatened to cave in during a championship-best return of 7-69 by seamer Shantry.
After resuming on 9-1, the visitors saw their seventh wicket go down with only 115 on the board but Sajid Mahmood, making only his second appearance since moving from Lancashire, joined the impressive Westley in a rescue partnership of 91.
When Shantry was cutting through the middle order, capturing 4-10 in 26 balls, Westley was in danger of being left in isolation, but the arrival of Mahmood forced Worcestershire on to the back foot.
The former England fast bowler bombarded an all-seam attack with 11 fours and it was a surprise when he was bowled behind his legs to give Shantry the fourth five-wicket haul of his career.
Mahmood was close to a run-a-ball in making 54 - his 10th first-class half-century - but his departure sparked another damaging spell in which Shantry claimed the last three wickets for four runs in 10 deliveries.
Westley, having batted with such control until the 62nd over, allowed his judgment to lapse. Needlessly taking on Shantry, he was caught at long on and missed an opportunity to join a list of 10 players who have carried their bat for Essex.
With only 6.5 overs bowled on the first two days, a badly curtailed match has come down to a battle for bonus points.
Worcestershire will start the final day with a clean slate after rain at 5.30pm halted their reply on 0-0 in two balls from David Masters.