England Test captain Alastair Cook came within 19 runs of a double-century to put Essex in command of their LV= County Championship Division Two match against Derbyshire.
Going into the third day at Chelmsford the hosts had recovered from a first-innings collapse of 94 to put themselves in charge, with Cook at the forefront of the fightback.
His contribution may have been vast but once he had been removed for 181, Derbyshire quickly mopped up the tail with Essex ending their second innings all out for 425.
But a spate of wickets towards the close of play meant Derbyshire finished the day on 167-5, still requiring 199 runs for the win.
Tymal Mills (3-29) did the brunt of the damage for Essex, who will eye Shivnarine Chanderpaul (41no) as the prized scalp on day four.
New Zealander Hamish Marshall held up Hampshire's victory bid with an unbeaten half-century for Gloucestershire on day three at Bristol.
Marshall ended the day unbeaten on 84 as Gloucestershire recovered from 183-7 to reach 308-9 in their second innings - 190 runs ahead.
In the balance
A record ninth wicket partnership of 92 between Marshall and seamer David Payne has given Gloucestershire hope after Alex Gidman (72) had started the fightback on day three.
Hampshire had earlier added just five runs to their overnight score, with wicketkeeper Adam Wheater the last man out for 82 as Matt Taylor returned career-best figures of 5-75, yet a first innings total of 422 presented a healthy advantage.
Worcestershire's home clash with Kent is hanging in the balance heading into day four after wicketkeeper Ben Cox helped set the visitors 266 to win.
Cox struck a fierce 89 amid five wickets for Kent's overseas recruit Doug Bollinger as the Pears posted 270 in their second knock at New Road.
Kent's run-chase got off to a nightmare start, Gareth Andrew removing Sam Northeast lbw for a duck with the third ball of the innings.
Andrew also did for Rob Key (13) in similar fashion, while Kent were 27-3 when Jack Shantry trapped Daniel Bell-Drummond, who made 61 in the first innings, lbw for 14.
Brendon Nash and Ben Harmison were unbeaten on 14 and nine respectively as Kent reached the close on 51-3 with 215 more required.