|LV= County Championship Division Two, Chelmsford|
|Close, day two: Kent 198 & 151, Essex 328|
|Essex 6 pts, Kent 3 pts|
Essex captain James Foster hit a century before Kent crumbled on day two at Chelmsford, to leave the home side requiring just 22 runs for victory.
Resuming on 97-4, Foster (108) shared a 114-run seventh-wicket partnership with Graham Napier (62) to help the home side post 328, a lead of 130.
Kent's second innings faltered as they were reduced to 79-6, Napier taking three wickets in seven balls.
James Tredwell and Adam Riley resisted, but Kent were bowled out for just 151.
They were in danger of losing the match within two days, but Tredwell (29) and Riley (21) added 45 for the ninth wicket to ensure the hosts would have to bat on the final day.
|Kent's fine run at Chelmsford set to end|
|Kent are unbeaten in their last nine Championship visits to Essex, having won five and drawn four games since they last lost there in 1994 - to a home side containing Graham Gooch and Nasser Hussain.|
Essex's push for victory was underpinned by Foster's first century, which included 15 boundaries and saw him bat for just a few minutes over four hours.
Darren Stevens' five-wicket haul saw the former Leicestershire all-rounder pass 50 Championship wickets for the season for the first time in his career.
Victory for Essex would lift them to within 29 points of top spot, subject to the conclusion of Worcestershire's game with Surrey.
Essex, who could close the gap further when they visit Division Two's bottom club Leicestershire next week, host Worcestershire in the final week of the season.
Essex skipper James Foster:
"It's obviously been a great day for us. We got a decent lead and then bowled them out.
"I am a little disappointed because I felt we should have got a lot more runs than we did when we lost those last four wickets for one run. But the way our bowlers performed was excellent."
Kent all-rounder Darren Stevens:
"That's a huge thing for me personally. It's the first time I've achieved it but I've probably never bowled 400 overs either.
"But the bigger picture is that we are in a poor position. Bowled out for not very many in the second innings and a 22 overall lead is just not good enough."
BBC Radio Kent's Matt Cole:
"Essex all but wrapped up a victory they richly deserve, particularly for an excellent performance with the ball.
"Although they received plenty of help from a lively wicket on the first morning, their discipline was exemplary, and bowled out Kent even more cheaply in the second innings.
"Kent captain Rob Key will rue opting to bat first on what looked like a minefield on the first morning, but there is little excuse for the batting performance in the second innings.
"Once again Darren Stevens shouldered the burden of leading the Kent attack, and the 10th five-wicket haul of his first-class career took him beyond 50 in a season for the first time."