Essex 474 for 7 dec (Bopara 133*, Vijay 85, Wheater 66, Harmer 57, Westley 55) beat Worcestershire 94 (Porter 7-41) and 140 for 4 (Clarke 74, Porter 4-57, Harmer 4-76) by an innings and 129 runs

Worcestershire's relegation to Division Two was confirmed as they slumped to an innings defeat against Essex at Chelmsford.

After Joe Clarke fell to the third ball of the morning, the task was simply to delay the inevitable, and despite Wayne Parnell's battling, unbeaten 50 taking things into the day's second session, Essex wrapped things up with time to spare.

The damage in this game was done on the first day, when they were shot out by Jamie Porter, and these three days confirmed the pre-season suspicions of many that, despite an exciting crop of young talent, Worcestershire lacked that little bit of quality to keep them in the division.

In truth, it was a cruel way for their Championship campaign to end. Their narrow defeats at Southport and at home to both Essex and Surrey were hard-fought games that could easily have gone their way, and in all three, a poor session or two cost them.

Here, they were outplayed by an excellent Essex side who may well go into next season as Surrey's nearest challengers with the bookies.

"We haven't played anywhere near our best in this game," said Daryl Mitchell, who suffered his fifth relegation today. "We've got an absolute pasting this week - we haven't competed well at all. The rest of the year, there's been some near misses and we've competed really well, but we've been completely annihilated here."

It was hard not to spare a thought for Mitchell this afternoon. In the past week he captained the side against the county champions in one of their toughest games of the season, won the Vitality Blast on Worcestershire's first appearance at Finals Day, played two days of trials for the Hundred, and now he finds himself relegated again.

As is often the case for the club, there is reason for optimism yet. Next year they will be strengthened even further by the returning Joe Leach, and with Parnell signing a Kolpak deal to complement the young trio of Ed Barnard, Dillon Pennington and Josh Tongue, their seam attack will be among the best in either division.

And with county heads set to vote on a proposal to expand the top division to ten teams next week, the years of lurching between the divisions may soon be over.

Mitchell was not the only county stalwart on the mind today. James Foster, who is leaving the club at the end of his contract, was heralded on the pitch during the lunch interval, came on as a substitute fielder for a final Chelmsford outing, and played football with his young family on the outfield as the ground emptied.

Tensions have been high in the final phase of Foster's Essex career. Negotiating with the club has proved tricky: he has not played for the first team since his mid-season coaching stint in the Global T20 League in Canada, and it has been made clear that his contract is expiring rather than him retiring.

While this was not the farewell season he would have wanted, it was clear from the club's presentation that he will go down as a great in these parts; and after 18 years of service, he deserved every last ripple of applause that came his way.

Essex go into next week's game at The Oval needing a win to have a chance of sealing second place, but third should not be seen as some kind of failure.

"In the time I've been here, barring last year, we've never even finished as high as second from bottom in Div One," said Ryan ten Doeschate, now the dressing room's senior citizen, during the defeat to Surrey two weeks ago. "It would be jumping the gun to think Championship, Championship, Championship: we need to be realistic."

And this performance showed that all the ingredients of last year's success are still there. Porter's 11 wickets in the match will leave him hopeful of a Test debut before long and Ravi Bopara's hundred gave a reminder of his immense worth to the club.

Today, they were not at their best with the ball, but the pressure was off after Clarke's early departure, and when Simon Harmer wrapped things up with the wickets of Ben Twohig - whose elegant cameo showed promise - and Pennington, it was some time since the game had been won.