Middlesex fought back well from a terrible start to their innings but still suffered a narrow six-run defeat in their Friends Life t20 South Group match with Essex at Lord's.
Chasing a target of 156, the hosts looked dead and buried as they lost half their wickets in the first nine overs with just 36 runs on the board, but recovered to reach 149-9.
Only Adam Rossington offered any upper-order resistance as slow left-armer Tim Phillips removed openers Joe Denly (one) and Chris Rogers (three) in his first two overs.
Dawid Malan (one) and Neil Dexter (five) also fell cheaply before Rossington struck out, hitting a six and two fours. But, having scored 22, he played down the wrong line to give David Masters a wicket.
Gareth Berg stopped the rot with some impressive strokeplay but, having reached 39 from 36 balls, he became a third victim for Phillips (3-27) and a second catch for wicketkeeper James Foster.
Steven Crook (22) and Ollie Rayner (39 not out) offered belated hope for the home team with an array of aggressive shots and a stand of 49 in five overs.
At the start of the final over, 18 runs were needed with three wickets remaining but Crook holed out to deep cover off the bowling of Greg Smith while Toby Roland-Jones was run out off the final delivery.
Having won the toss, Essex had earlier got off to a brisk start with the opening pair of Mark Pettini (26) and James Franklin (23) posting 46 in seven overs before spinner Rayner (2-16) accounted for both batsmen.
But Ryan ten Doeschate (38) took a shine to the bowling of Tom Smith, despatching the slow left-armer for three sixes in two overs before being trapped lbw by Dexter.
Graham Napier contributed an entertaining 28, an innings which started with 22 off six balls, 19 of which were at the expense of Dexter.
The all-rounder skied into the covers where Rayner took the catch to give Berg the first of his two wickets, while Greg Smith added 14 late on to help Essex to a winning total of 155-5.
Essex now have four points and share top position in the group with Surrey and Sussex.