LV CC Division Two, Chelmsford
Close, day two: Worcestershire 102 & 163-3, Essex 351
Essex 7 pts, Worcestershire 3 pts
Worcestershire still need another 86 runs to avoid an innings defeat despite an improved second-innings showing against Essex on day two at Chelmsford.
Having bowled out Worcestershire for just 102 on day one, Essex, resuming on 199-4, went on to make 351, Ben Foakes (71) and Graham Napier (64 no) both hitting half centuries, to lead by 249.
The promotion picture . . .
started this game on 136 points, one ahead of Worcestershire and 44 adrift of Northants, but with a game in hand on all the teams in the top five.
have only two matches left after this one. With Northants having already claimed four batting bonus points, even two maximum 24-point victories would not be enough to claim second place.
Visiting skipper Daryl Mitchell (62) helped put on 113 for the first wicket.
Fellow opener Matt Pardoe (74 not out) stayed to see his side close on 163-3.
Monty Panesar took two of the wickets to fall in the evening session, claiming the key Worcestershire scalps of Mitchell and the prolific Moeen Ali for just 21.
And that puts the home side in contention to complete a victory inside three days, which would significantly boost their promotion hopes if second-placed Northants fail to beat Hampshire.
But, if the defeat that looks likely for Worcestershire becomes reality, that would finally end their hopes of a quick return to Division One.
At least Steve Rhodes' men saved some face after their first-day flop.
After being bowled out for 102 in their first innings, Worcestershire got past that with their opening pair unparted second time around, until captain Mitchell walked after Panesar found a thin edge.
And the ageless Alan Richardson once again ended up as Worcestershire's most successful bowler, picking up 4-92 from his 26 overs, taking his season's tally of scalps to 59.