Sam Robson hit a century in his first Championship innings of the summer to rescue Middlesex on the first day of their clash with Essex at Chelmsford.
Essex appeared to be in control when Graham Napier (5-43) took three quick wickets to restrict Middlesex to 90-4.
But Jamie Dalrymple (52) and John Simpson (65) helped Robson, who batted all day, rebuild with century stands for the fifth and sixth wickets.
Robson ended the day unbeaten on 136 as Middlesex closed on 316-6.
The right-hander's knock was much needed by the visitors, who were in danger of being blown away when Napier accounted for Dan Housego, Dawid Malan and Neil Dexter in the space of 13 deliveries without conceding a run.
But with the support of Dalrymple and Simpson, Robson batted Middlesex into a position of strength.
Both Dalrymple and Simpson were accounted for by the impressive Napier,
who last week equalled the record for the number of sixes in a first-class innings.
The all-rounder's efforts were in contrast to Reece Topley, who bowled 16 wicketless overs after spending the morning in a business studies exam.
CLOSE OF PLAY SUMMARIES
BBC Essex's Glenn Speller:
"Essex looked to have the upper hand when reducing Middlesex to 92-4 at lunch, but on a pitch offering little assistance to the bowlers, Robson, Dalrymple and Simpson got their heads down to rebuild for the visitors.
"David Masters bowled well for little reward and Graham Napier took the plaudits with his five wickets (including two in three balls).
"Reece Topley was able to play despite sitting a business studies exam in the morning but he failed to reproduce his heroics from the corresponding match at Lord's.
"Essex will need to finish off the Middlesex innings quickly on Wednesday morning, with the occasional ball already keeping low late on day one to put some doubt in the batsmen's minds."
BBC London 94.9's Kevin Hand:
"Sam Robson's century was magnificent. He played with control and discipline and offered the Essex bowlers very little.
"His innings was all the more impressive as he saw the four wickets fall at the other end before lunch and the pitch was slow and low.
"John Simpson was unlucky to fall to a ball that kept very low, but the Middlesex bowlers will look forward to finding more of the same when Essex bat."