It proved a false dawn for the hosts at Northampton, as the in-form Will Kendall (98), captain Robin Smith (94) and Giles White (43no) put Hampshire on track for a big total - only for their innings to falter again to 301 all out, with England's new recruit Graeme Swann taking 3 for 74.
The young leg-spinner Chris Schofield - touted by the former England coach David Lloyd as a Test tourist before the party for South Africa was named this week - proved his mentor's confidence is not ill-founded when he took five wickets against Durham at Old Trafford.
Lancashire needed Schofield's contribution too, as Durham shaped to post a big first-innings score and reached 193 for 2 at one stage thanks to half-centuries from the openers Jon Lewis (61) and Jimmy Daley (66) as well as 34 from Nick Speak against his old team. They eventually reached 226 all out, and Lancashire continued their fightback when Michael Atherton and Mark Chilton reached 26 without loss at stumps.
The Sussex seam attack had Essex struggling to avoid defeat after the hosts had gained a crucial first-innings lead of 92 on the second day of the match at Eastbourne. The visitors stumbled to 78 for 4 before closing only 29 runs ahead on 121 for 5.
Sussex, replying to Essex's modest 179, made 271 before the pace men Jason Lewry and James Kirtley pressed home the advantage.
Essex's opener Paul Grayson faced 135 deliveries in grinding out an unbeaten 42, and similar application today is vital to keep his team alive. They were quickly up against it as Lewry sent back Paul Prichard and the England captain, Nasser Hussain, for ducks with just eight on the board. Grayson and Stuart Law added 42 for the third wicket before the Australian cut a delivery from Kirtley to deep gully. Essex's position worsened when Ronnie Irani and Darren Robinson fell before stumps.
Earlier, the Sussex opener Richard Montgomerie had struck 83 - his highest score since the middle of June - as the home side were bowled out in mid- afternoon.
The Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath has agreed a two-year deal to join Worcestershire next year. The county, who have signed McGrath to replace his fellow countryman Tom Moody, declined to reveal the financial terms but confirmed that "generous support" has been offered by Cecil Duckworth, the multi-millionaire behind Worcester Rugby Club's rapid rise to prominence.