|LV= County Championship Division Two, County Ground (day three)|
|Essex 276 and 300-3: Westley 164 not out, Ryder 90 not out|
|Northants 444: Levi 168 not out, Napier 3-85|
|Essex lead Northants by 132 runs|
|Essex 4 pts, Northants 8 pts|
Thomas Westley's 164 and 90 from Jesse Ryder saved Essex from what looked like a rapid slide towards defeat on day three at Wantage Road.
After Northants advanced from their overnight position of 397-6 to 444 all out, Essex began falteringly and, at 84-3, looked to be in serious trouble.
That brought Westley and Ryder together and the pair stood firm until stumps, guiding the visitors to 300-3.
Rory Kleinveldt took all three wickets to fall, returning figures of 3-65.
Resuming his career-best innings at the start of play, Northants' Robert Levi advanced to 168 before being caught behind by James Foster off the bowling of Graham Napier, as the home side's tail put up some resistance before being finished off in the first hour of play - not out batsman Muhammad Azharullah (nine) the only Northants player to fail to make double figures.
Essex's reply got off to an alarming start as Jaik Mickleburgh was out lbw for a duck with just five runs on the board, and that situation grew worse when Nicholas Browne and Ravi Bopara went in quick succession for the addition of just two runs.
But, with the steadying influence of Westley already at the crease, the arrival of Ryder further allayed Essex's fears, and by the close of play, Westley had his first Championship century in a year, and Ryder was just 10 short of his first ton of the season.
Essex coach Paul Grayson:
"There's no denying we've had a tough couple of weeks in first-class cricket, so it's nice to have a good day. After losing early wickets, to watch Tom and Jesse play like that was top class.
"It was about batting long and batting big and at the moment we've got two players that have played really well, Tom has been in great form since he's come back from his broken thumb.
"We're up against it and we've still got a lot of work to do in the morning, we're going to have to bat well first thing."
Northants coach David Ripley:
"I thought we stuck to our tasks pretty well, there were some signs of deterioration in the wicket and we hoped with a lead in the bank it would do a little bit more for us.
"But but it's held together pretty well and meant a hard stint in the field.
"We've got the new ball in the morning, if we knock these two guys over they'll get a bit twitchy again, but if we don't I'm sure they'll save the game."