Hampshire end Essex Division Two promotion hopes
LV CC Division Two, Ageas Bowl
Close, day one: Essex 207 & 44-0 (f/o) v Hampshire 456
Hampshire 8pts, Essex 4pts
Hampshire seamer Matt Coles took six wickets as Essex's promotion hopes were ended after they failed to secure maximum batting points at Southampton.
Essex needed to score at least 400 runs and win the game to have any chance of securing a place in Division One.
But, after centurion Adam Wheater (122) helped the hosts add 58 to reach 456, Coles (6-71) helped bowl out James Foster's side for 207.
The visitors then followed on to end day two on 44-0, still 209 behind.
Coles, who is on loan at Hampshire from Kent and will leave Canterbury at the end of the season, will have alerted several counties to his availability with season-best figures from 19.1 overs.
Meanwhile, Wheater's total, which included 15 fours and a six, was his highest score at Southampton since moving to the club from Essex last year.
He was eventually dismissed by Greg Smith, Tom Westley taking the catch at deep mid-wicket, and the spinner went on to claim 5-58.
In reply, Essex slumped to 16-2, but Westley (40) and Smith (37) then shared a third-wicket partnership of 65 before Coles began a slide that left the visitors needing 249 to avoid an innings defeat.
Essex looked more determined after following on with Jaik Mickleburgh and Gautam Gambhir putting on 44 in 13.4 overs before bad light and rain stopped play.