Essex v Lancashire: Alex Davies ton helps visitors close in on victory at Chelmsford
|Specsavers County Championship Division One, The Cloudfm County Ground (day three):|
|Lancashire 319 and 317-3 dec: Davies 140*, Vilas 92|
|Essex 159 and 89-2: Chopra 29; McLaren 1-18|
|Lancashire 6 pts, Essex 3 pts|
|Essex require 389 runs to win|
Alex Davies made his maiden first-class century to help Lancashire close in on victory against Essex at Chelmsford.
Resuming on 114-1 with a lead of 274, Lancashire lost Liam Livingstone early in the day, but Davies and Dane Vilas put on 183 for the third wicket.
The hosts declared on 317-3 after Vilas (92) was bowled by Jamie Porter, with Davies remaining unbeaten on 140.
Chasing a notional 478 to win, Essex lost both openers as their hopes of rescuing a draw on day four faded.
Varun Chopra and Nick Browne both fell in the evening session as Essex closed on 89-2, seemingly destined for defeat in their first match in Division One since 2010.
The hosts toiled in the field for much of the day, as Davies, who has spent 11 months out of the game after a knee operation, brought up a measured century off 214 balls.
The 22-year-old, who got over the concern of going to lunch on 97, was ably supported by former South Africa international Vilas, who hit his second half-century on his Red Rose debut, having signed on a Kolpak deal.
Stephen Parry had Browne caught by England opener Haseeb Hameed, and Ryan McLaren bowled Chopra as Lancashire continued their dominance following the declaration.
Tom Westley was dropped twice as he and Dan Lawrence saw out 17 overs in the evening session but, with good weather predicted for Monday, Lancashire still have plenty of time to pick up the final eight wickets.
Essex captain Ryan ten Doeschate told BBC Radio Essex:
"There is no glossing over it. We haven't started the way we wanted to. It has been tough. But, as gruelling as it has been, there is a feeling we're not far off where we want to be.
"We were expecting a few induction problems, if you want to call it that. But we bounced back really well in the last 40 overs.
"Even though we only got three wickets the lads ran in and toiled, which is another positive. There have been a few teething problems, but the sooner we learn the better."
Lancashire batsman Alex Davies told BBC Radio Lancashire:
"Obviously it's a really amazing and proud day, and it's good to just get it off my back really, I've had a lot of chances in the past and not quite got over the line.
"I had that 99 against Kent (in April 2015) in my mind for a while before this, but once you are in that situation all you can do is concentrate and watch the ball and play the best you can.
"Having missed pretty much all of last season, it just makes you that little bit more hungry to do well."