Smith best, Napier gives Essex control
Gloucestershire 211 for 9 (Gidman 63, Napier 4-72) trail Essex 400 (Smith 177) by 189 runs
Greg Smith finished with a career-best 177 as Essex clinched maximum batting points for the first time this season and took a firm grip at Bristol.
After rain had washed out 25 overs, the visitors extended their first innings total from an overnight 333 for 7 to exactly 400, Smith being last man out having batted for nearly seven hours, facing 303 balls and hitting 21 fours and a six.
Gloucestershire slipped to 41 for 3 in reply before a century stand between Alex Gidman and Hamish Marshall. But Graham Napier and Reece Topley ensured the hosts were reduced to 211 for 9 by the close, requiring a further 40 to avoid following-on.
Rain delayed the start until 1.25pm and then interrupted play after just 10 balls, but the clouds got higher and a resumption was made at 1.50pm. Monty Panesar hit a breezy 22 to add 42 with Smith, who went past his previous best first-class score of 165 not out, made for Derbyshire against Glamorgan at Derby in 2010.
After Panesar had top-edged a catch to fine leg off David Payne, Tymal Mills ensured Essex of a fifth batting point with 17, including three fours, before falling to the left-arm spin of Tom Smith, who was finally bowled by Craig Miles to end the innings. But Gloucestershire skipper Michael Klinger's fear that his bowlers had under-performed proved well founded.
Chris Dent, Klinger and Gareth Roderick all fell in the first 11 overs of the home side's reply, Napier taking two of the wickets and Topley one. Gidman became the first Gloucestershire player to pass 1,000 first-class runs for the season shortly after reaching a half-century off 72 balls, but both he and Marshall had to ride their luck in adding 101 in 24 overs.
Their partnership ended on 142 when Gidman had his middle stump uprooted by Ryan ten Doeschate, having hit 11 fours. Benny Howell was then run out for 11 by Topley's sharp throw from midwicket after calling Marshall for a quick single.
Marshall was dropped twice in the slips by Owais Shah and Gautam Gambhir on 44 and reached his half-century off 86 balls, with eight fours, before getting a sharp delivery from Topley and edging a catch to wicketkeeper James Foster. Smith followed, edging to Shah at first slip off Napier, and Gloucestershire were 172 for 7, still 79 runs away from avoiding the follow-on.
Four runs later Will Gidman was caught behind off a lifting delivery from Topley and Payne was yorked by Napier for a duck before a flurry of boundaries from Craig Miles brought the home side a welcome batting point.