Ravi Bopara claimed career-best bowling figures to dismiss Derbyshire, before Billy Godleman led the visitors fightback, but Essex remain on top at Chelmsford.
Bopara returned figures of 5-49, which included a devastating spell post-Lunch, as Derbyshire were all out for 280 during the afternoon session. Hamish Rutherford top scored with 49, but no visiting batsmen was able to pass fifty.
Leading by 258 runs, Essex enforced the follow-on, but Derbyshire produced a spirited final session to close on 150-1. Godleman led the way with a well-made 75, while Rutherford ended the day unbeaten on 20. Chesney Hughes earlier hit 26 not out before he had to retire ill.
Neil Broom said: “We’ve started well in the second innings only being one down. We have to bat through three more sessions, but we’ve batted it out to save games already this season. We’ll come out and try and save this game.
“The wicket is a bit two-paced and I found it a bit difficult to time the ball on. I haven’t been in the best of form so it was not the best one to bat on. But once you get set you can go big.”
Wayne Madsen and Rutherford opened the day by completing a 52-run stand, before Madsen was the first man out, caught behind off Bopara for 12.
Rutherford continued on his way and looked set to hit his second half-century off the season, before he clipped Bopara to Aaron Beard at square-leg for 49, which included nine fours. Shiv Thakor fell just before Lunch for five, as the visitors reached the interval on 199-5.
Derbyshire suffered a difficult passage after the restart, starting with the dismissal of Neil Broom for 33 with the second ball after Lunch. Tom Poynton (8) and Matt Critchley (7) both then followed with the visitors 207-8.
Tom Taylor (25), Ben Cotton (19) and Tony Palladino (24 not out) provided some resistance, but Derbyshire were dismissed for 280 midway through the afternoon session. Bopara was the pick of the bowlers for the hosts as he returned the best figures of his career, 5-49 off his 18 overs.
Essex enforced the follow-on, but Godleman and Chesney Hughes safely navigated to Tea with Derbyshire 45-0.
The opening pair continued their good start, taking their side to 76-0 – a second successive half-century opening stand in the match – before Hughes called for the physio after feeling unwell. He was unable to continue and retired ill for 26, but he will be able to resume his innings on the final day, if required.
Rutherford joined his Captain in the middle and they shared a 60-run stand before Godleman was bowled off an inside-edge for a well-made 75. He was the only wicket to fall as Derbyshire closed on 150-1, with Rutherford 20 not out and night-watchman Tom Taylor still there on six.
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