Essex 164 and 193 for 5 beat Kent 193 and 163 by five wickets
James Foster led from the front as Essex opened their LV= County Championship Division Two campaign with a five-wicket victory against Kent at Chelmsford.
The home captain hit an unbeaten 80 containing 10 fours and one six as Essex reached their target of 193 shortly after the lunch interval on the third day.
The penultimate day began with the game evenly poised and the home side lost the wicket of 17-year-old Daniel Lawrence without addition to the overnight 66 for 3. The youngster became Mitch Claydon's third victim of the innings when he was snapped up at forward short leg, but that dismissal heralded the arrival of Foster to underline his class.
While Jamie Porter, who had come in as nightwatchman, was content to defend resolutely at one end, Foster, despite one or two anxious moments on a pitch where the ball sometimes rose awkwardly off a length, penetrated the field with some forceful strokes either side of the wicket.
When the 50 stand was raised from 109 balls, Porter's share was a solitary single, off Ivan Thomas, having been put down by Matt Coles at second slip in the same over. Porter then picked up runs through midwicket before earning a big cheer from the crowd when he found the offside boundary against Claydon.
Soon afterwards, however, he was dismissed in unfortunate circumstances when a delivery from Coles struck him on the helmet and trickled onto his stumps to dislodge the bails. Porter's valuable resistance, that spanned 85 deliveries, had brought him 14 runs and one boundary in a stand that yielded 66 in 22 overs.
That left Essex on 132 for 5 but it was the last success Kent were able to celebrate as Foster, in partnership with Jesse Ryder, saw the hosts to the winning post.
They needed just nine balls after lunch to gather the 23 runs required with both batsmen hitting sixes. Foster despatched Claydon into the crowd in front of the pavilion at mid-wicket while the New Zealander sent a ball from Thomas over long-on.
The victory underlined Essex's fighting qualities particularly as they were in dire trouble at 69 for 7 in their first innings, and gives them a great start to their season's main objective of winning promotion to Division One.
It also gave them their sixth consecutive Championship victory, a sequence which began in mid-July last year. Essex collected 19 points from the match while Kent took just three points in an encounter where neither side collected a batting point.