After their flying start, Nottinghamshire's title challenge is stuttering. Having lost their 100 per cent record to Hampshire at Trent Bridge 12 days ago, they have been outplayed by Essex, who begin the final day with a substantial lead.
Nottinghamshire, who were at one point 88 for 6 in reply to Essex's 329, avoided the follow-on thanks to half-centuries from Chris Read and Steven Mullaney, before being bowled out for 217. At 152 for 2 at stumps, and with Ravi Bopara unbeaten on 57, Essex are well in control.
Dismal Warwickshire lost nine wickets in the morning session against Durham at Edgbaston, collapsing to 100 all out with nightwatchman Andy Miller top-scoring with a career-best 35. Always likely to struggle for runs without Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott, it is the third consecutive first innings of a Championship match that Warwickshire have failed to post 150.
They did better following on, however, anchored by a grafting unbeaten 86 from captain Ian Westwood, but still trail by 50 runs.
Owais Shah hit 150 or more for the 10th time in his career as Middlesex threatened to match Leicestershire in a run-heavy Second Division encounter at Grace Road, where Neil Dexter also made a century for the visitors.
Leaders Glamorgan look likely to have to settle for a draw at Cardiff, where Steven Davies (83) and Mark Ramprakash (73) led a strong Surrey reply to the Welsh county's 372 all out, but third-placed Gloucestershire, who have drawn none of their seven matches so far, are in danger of suffering a fourth defeat against Worcestershire.
After their stunning win against Derbyshire on Sunday, the Netherlands fared less well in their 40-over match against Northamptonshire, slumping to 32 for 6 in reply to 238 for 7.