Worcestershire 302 for 5 (Mitchell 67, D'Oliveira 67, Fell 53) trail Essex 561 for 8 dec by 259 runs
Essex worked their way through some dogged Worcestershire batting to continue their push for victory on the third day of their LV=Insurance County Championship match at New Road. In reply to the champions' 561 for 8 declared, the home side closed the third day on 302 for 5.
Essex were held up by two stands of 111, between openers Daryl Mitchell, who made 67 off 141 balls, and Jake Libby, and then fourth-wicket pair Tom Fell (53 off 162 balls) and Brett D'Oliveira (67 off 147 balls). The bowlers persevered, though, led by spinner Simon Harmer whose figures of 39-12-75-3 included a late-morning burst of three for four in 22 balls.
The home side have work still to do to reach the follow on figure of 412 on the final day. If they achieve that, the game appears destined for a draw.
Worcestershire resumed on the third morning on 37 without loss and Mitchell and Libby took their alliance to 111 in 36 overs. Libby, captain in the absence of the rested Joe Leach, looked in excellent form and lifted Harmer straight for six but then missed an attempt to cut the spinner and was bowled.
Harmer quickly followed that with two more wickets in three balls. Mitchell bat-padded to Ryan ten Doeschate at short leg before Gareth Roderick's lean spell continued when he was bowled through the gate by one that turned.
At 132 for 3, having lost three wickets for 21 runs in 69 balls, the follow on figure seemed a long way away for Worcestershire, but Fell and D'Oliviera knuckled down impressively. The fourth-wicket pair batted throughout a rain-trimmed afternoon session which brought 84 runs for no wickets from 33 overs. Harmer wheeled away throughout the session while the seamers rotated at the New Road End.
The new ball finally brought the breakthrough after tea when Sam Cook prised some bounce from the sluggish pitch and Fell edged to wicketkeeper Adam Wheater. The keeper pounced again six overs later when D'Oliveira, having reached his first half-century of the season, nicked one to give debutant Shane Snater his 21st first-class wicket and first for Essex.
Further wickets in the closing overs would have put Worcestershire under serious pressure but Rikki Wessels and Ben Cox did well in fading light to add an unbroken 43 in the last 18 overs.