Essex recovered from a poor start to reach 268-8 at stumps on the opening day of their Division Two game with Lancashire at Chelmsford.
The visitors reduced Essex to 13-3 before they staged a recovery, with James Foster (82) and Ryan ten Doeschate (77) leading the way after they had been put into bat.
Opening bowlers Kyle Hogg and Glen Chapple made the most of the overcast early conditions to make early inroads, Jaik Mickleburgh (4) the first to depart after edging Hogg to Ashwell Prince at third slip.
Fellow opener Tom Westley was trapped leg before by the same bowler and New Zealand Test batsman Hamish Rutherford had a Championship debut to forget as he was dismissed by Chapple for just five.
Owais Shah helped steady the ship with a patient 30 off 59 balls on his return from the Indian Premier League but he was bowled by Luke Procter.
Ben Foakes followed in Procter's next over after being caught at cover by Luis Reece to leave Essex reeling on 72-5 at lunch.
But the game swung in the home side's favour after the restart, with Ten Doeschate and Foster wresting control from Lancashire.
Ten Doeschate reached his half-century from 80 balls as he shared a partnership of 95 with Foster before falling to Simon Kerrigan.
The South African-born Dutchman drove Kerrigan for a six and a four but was caught on the long-on boundary by Simon Katich as he went for another big hit.
His departure brought all-rounder Graham Napier to the crease and he offered able assistance to Foster, whose 50 came up courtesy off the fourth boundary of his innings off 105 deliveries.
The pair's 59-run stand came to an end when Napier (28) stepped across the line and was trapped lbw by Wayne White.
Foster's crucial knock, which helped his side to a couple of batting points, ended when he was dismissed lbw by Kerrigan.
Sajid Mahmood reached 22 not out and will be keen to further frustrate his former county on Thursday.
David masters (0no) was also there at the close, which came prematurely after bad light caused the umpires to call a halt to proceedings.