Essex 601 for 5 dec (Westley 254, ten Doeschate 109*, Bopara 99, Cook 66) beat Worcestershire 230 (Cox 63, Rhodes 59, Masters 7-52) and 210 (Napier 5-59) by an innings and 161 runs
"I'd be lying if I said I weren't checking the scores," admitted Essex's head coach Chris Silverwood.
Every interval - virtually every moment of peace - at Chelmsford over the last three days had been broken by an update of scores from around the country, both in the stands and the players' balcony.
News of Kent's emphatic victory over Sussex, taking them level on points with Essex at the top of Division Two, filtered through as the players were walking off the field for tea. Just over an hour later, Essex had completed their demolition job of Worcestershire. This victory by an innings and 161 runs will have registered down the road in Kent, too.
A three-day finish was on the cards when Worcestershire were reduced to 64 for 5 by lunch, in their first innings on day one. That Essex were able to fulfil expectations was ultimately down to Graham Napier, who picked up his fourth five-wicket haul of the season, after Ryan ten Doeschate had brought up his third century of the season before declaring 371 runs ahead.
It was not the cleanest morning's work from Essex. They lost Tom Westley run out for 254: his innings ended at 506 minutes after ten Doeschate dropped the ball into the off side and ran instantly. Westley gave up the run about halfway down, as Brett D'Oliveira swooped from point to throw down the stumps.
Still, the Essex skipper remained calm and brought up his century from 114 balls. His innings also took his season's tally past 1,000 first-class runs for the first time in his career.
Essex should have struck in the first over of Worcestershire's second innings. Jamie Porter got his fourth delivery to lift off a length and take Daryl Mitchell's edge, only for Nick Browne to put down a simple catch at third slip. Browne would make amends later with a stunning one-handed catch at point, off the bowling of Will Rhodes, to remove Tom Fell.
Mitchell's reprieve allowed him and D'Oliveira to survive until the last over before lunch. It was then that David Masters, in his first over from the Hayes Close end, where he nabbed all seven of his first innings wickets, sent Mitchell on his way with a delivery that kept low as it moved in, knocking into middle and off stump.
With the fourth ball after lunch, D'Oliveira was accounted for - becoming the first of Napier's three afternoon-session wickets when he edged through to James Foster. The second came when Joe Clarke played on, looking to continue on an enterprising innings that was cut short at 22.
At this point, George Rhodes, the only bright spot for Worcestershire at Chelmsford, seemed to be on his way to a second half-century in the match.
It was at this point that ten Doeschate decided to throw the ball to Westley. Despite the change in regulation, spin has played little part at Chelmsford. In fact, Westley's first over, the 39th of the second innings, was the first sight of spin from the hosts. It took just four balls to come good, as Ross Whiteley was trapped in front from around the wicket. In Westley's next over, he drew Rhodes out of his crease to give James Foster his first Championship stumping of the season. The wicket of Leach, bowled by a full Napier delivery that moved late into the right-hander, took the teams to tea.
There was a carnival feel to the evening session, as the floodlights were superseded by the sun, which found a gap in the clouds as Essex pushed for a day off. Ed Barnard, caught by Westley at second slip off Napier and then Ben Cox, flicking Masters tamely to Jamie Porter at mid on, gave Napier four in the innings and Masters nine in the match (he had never taken 10). And so the game within a game began - who would get the final wicket? In the end, it went Napier's way, as Jack Shantry, having stroked a couple of boundaries, offered a high leading edge that ten Doeschate caught brilliantly, sprinting in from mid off.
Essex now have a round off, while Kent host a revitalised Northamptonshire at Beckenham. In the meantime, the Essex players will be given some time off before they return to Chelmsford on September 12 to play Glamorgan, before a potential winner-takes-all clash with Kent at Canterbury in the final round of the season.
Essex will play their remaining two matches without Alastair Cook, hence the acquisition of Adam Wheater on loan. With Hampshire happy for the wicketkeeper batsman to court opportunities elsewhere ahead of next season, Essex are thought to be interested in bringing him back to the club he left in 2013 on a more permanent basis. Silverwood, though, was keen not to comment on the matter just yet.