Adam Wheater scored a magnificent century to rescue promotion-chasing Hampshire against his former Essex colleagues when their County Championship Division Two fixture got under way a day late at Colchester.
Wheater came to the crease at 30-4 and his 107 saw Hampshire up to a total of 246 before Essex reached 70-1 in reply by the close of day two, the opening day having been washed out.
Wheater found an ideal partner in Australian Nathan Rimmington (65no), who was making his championship debut, as Hampshire fought back from being reduced to 97-7 at lunch.
Driving and pulling with increasing authority as the pitch became easier, the pugnacious Wheater moved to his century from 134 balls with the help of 11 fours and a hooked six against left-arm spinner Tim Phillips.
He departed soon afterwards, trapped lbw by paceman Sajid Mahmood, who was making his first appearance of the summer because regular strike bowlers David Masters, Tymal Mills and Reece Topley were on the injured list.
Mahmood, one of 10 bowlers used by Essex skipper James Foster, finished with 3-54, while new-ball pair Graham Napier (2-29) and Jesse Ryder (2-34) each claimed two wickets.
Essex soon lost Nick Browne when they replied, caught low down at slip by James Vince off Matt Coles, but Tom Westley (35no) and Ravi Bopara (24no) batted with confidence to compose an unbroken 60 runs partnership to leave Essex going into the third day 176 runs behind with nine wickets intact.
Leaders in a battle
At New Road, Greg Smith successfully retraced past footsteps as Leicestershire continued to make life difficult for Worcestershire on day two despite Saeed Ajmal's return of 4-66 for the Division Two leaders.
Six years after scoring 150 for England against New Zealand in an Under 19 international on this ground, the 25-year-old opener continued his recent upturn in form with a fluent 85 which helped Leicestershire to 280 in reply to Worcestershire's first-innings 321.
Nathan Buck (2-21) removed Daryl Mitchell and Tom Fell to reduce Worcestershire to 48-2 in their second innings by the close, a lead of 89.
A century from Will Tavare and an unbeaten 88 from Will Gidman took Gloucestershire to 304-6 on the opening day against Derbyshire at Cheltenham.
Tavare continued his impressive debut season in county cricket with 17 fours and two sixes in his 269-ball innings of 135 at the top of the order, while Gidman also has a hundred in his sights after striking 14 boundaries in his 88 not out.