Ravi Bopara and Mark Pettini combined to lead Essex to victory over Middlesex in the first of two Natwest T20 Blast fixtures at Lord's on Saturday.
Pettini had set up a strong platform as the visitors responded to Middlesex's 180 for five, before Bopara added the late firepower to secure an eight-wicket victory.
Pettini hit the winning runs with seven balls to spare as he set his new format best of 95, while Bopara smashed three fours and three sixes - including 16 runs from three James Harris deliveries in the 19th over - in his 24-ball 45.
Dawid Malan and Eoin Morgan had earlier put on 118 for Middlesex's second wicket.
Opener Malan carried his bat for a terrific 86, while England international Morgan bludgeoned 77 from just 43 deliveries as the hosts had been put into bat.
Morgan, who came to the crease with the hosts 21 for one after Paul Stirling saw his off-stump removed by Oliver Newby, raced to his 12th 20-over 50 before eventually succumbing to Graham Napier in the 16th over, holing out to Newby at long-on.
Reece Topley struck three times late on to stop Morgan's side threatening the 200-mark, including the removal of Joe Denly and Dan Christian in successive deliveries, the latter falling first ball on his Middlesex debut.
Essex skipper Pettini dominated an opening stand of 81 in reply, with England's Test and one-day captain Alastair Cook never really looking comfortable in his 22 from 21 balls.
He eventually fell to Ravi Patel, pulling straight to Morgan at midwicket.
Patel struck again - New Zealand international Jesse Ryder snared by Toby Roland-Jones at long-off after making 15 on his debut - as Middlesex successfully dried up the runs.
But with a tight finish looking certain, Bopara punished Harris and left Middlesex nursing a defeat ahead of their second game of the day against Sussex.