Essex moved a step closer towards sealing the Specsavers County Championship title this week after taking a stranglehold on their encounter with rock-bottom Warwickshire.
The runaway Division One leaders can wrap up their first championship crown in 25 years if they convert their 161-run lead at the halfway point into victory at Edgbaston and closest challengers Lancashire lose at Somerset.
The Red Rose's faint hopes of pipping Essex suffered a significant setback after they were made to follow-on at Taunton.
But Essex, last season's Division Two champions, fared better with the bat as former Warwickshire opener Varun Chopra returned to haunt his old county with a fine innings of 98.
Highly-rated Dan Lawrence contributed 78 while veteran wicketkeeper-batsman James Foster added 68 as Essex declared on 369 for nine for a first-innings lead of 168.
Jamie Porter and Simon Harmer, the two leading wicket-takers in Division One this season, each had an over at the end of day two but were unable to make a breakthrough as Sam Hain and Dominic Sibley shepherded Warwickshire to seven without loss.
Lancashire were undone by Jack Leach's five for 47 as they were all out for 133 for a first-innings deficit of 202, with Somerset duly inviting their opponents to bat again.
The visitors reached 28 for none second time around but still trail by 174 and face a mountain to climb if they are to keep their title hopes alive heading into the final two games of the season.
Kumar Sangakkara took his championship tally to 1,250 runs for the season after a fluent 164 while Ben Foakes' 110 was his first century of the year as Surrey amassed a mammoth 592 all out against Yorkshire.
However, Yorkshire openers Tom Kohler-Cadmore (78) and Shaun Marsh (77no) led the fightback with a 162-run stand for the opening wicket at The Oval as the visitors closed on 171 for one.
Only 30.1 overs were bowled in soggy Uxbridge where Middlesex limped to 76 for three against Hampshire before rain halted proceedings for the day.
Play was abandoned without a ball bowled due to unfit conditions at the ground on day one but it was the elements that forced a truncated day on Wednesday.
In Division Two, Brett D'Oliveira starred with an unbeaten 121 as promotion-chasing Worcestershire made an encouraging response to Leicestershire's 404 all out.
Neil Dexter's 114 and Zak Chappell's 48 lower down the order swelled Leicestershire's total at New Road but opener D'Oliveira struck 13 fours and a six to lift Worcestershire to 270 for four at stumps.
Richard Levi's 101 steered Northamptonshire to 310 all out for a first-innings lead of 103 against Glamorgan, who closed on 63 for one to trail by 40 at Cardiff.
Cameron Bancroft carried his bat for 206 not out in Gloucestershire's 385 all out before Kent reached 60 for two in reply while Hardus Viljoen's seven for 80 saw Sussex skittled for 271 before Derbyshire closed on 31 for one for an advantage of 98 at Hove.