Surrey 340 and 95 for 2 trail Essex 610 for 8 dec (Lawrence 161, Napier 73, Ryder 57, Smith 50*) by 175 runs
Daniel Lawrence will not be old enough to vote in next month's general election, but at 17 years and 290 days he has become the third-youngest player in Championship history to score a hundred. His remarkably mature 161 spearheaded Essex's third day drive to a mammoth 610 for 8 declared - and a first innings lead of 270 - against Surrey in the Division Two match at the Kia Oval.
By stumps, following Lawrence's earlier heroics and a belligerent eighth-wicket stand of 116 between Greg Smith and Graham Napier - who hit three sixes and nine fours in a 62-ball 73 - Essex were sniffing victory with Surrey 95 for 2 in their second innings, still 175 adrift.
Surrey will do well to escape with a draw on the final day, after Kumar Sangakkara was smartly held at first slip by Nick Browne for 43, nibbling at Napier. Kevin Pietersen, on 8 not out, has a match to save and he has Rory Burns, unbeaten on 41, alongside him.
Zafar Ansari, on the day he was selected for England's one-day squad ahead of the May 8 international in Ireland, was run out for a duck from the fifth ball of Surrey's second innings - sent back by Rory Burns as he tried to take a quick single to cover. The fielder who ran Ansari out? Lawrence, of course.
Lawrence, still 75 days short of his 18th birthday, is clearly a rare talent and completed his maiden first-class century well before lunch after resuming on 48 not out in Essex's overnight 266 for 2, in reply to Surrey's first innings of 340.
He lofted Ansari straight for six for the second time in his innings early in the morning session, and had also struck eleven fours in a superb hundred that took him 146 balls. There were 150 runs in 29 overs in the opening session, and Essex then plundered another 194 in 34.4 overs between lunch and tea as Surrey's depleted attack suffered.
Lawrence was finally caught at the wicket in mid-afternoon, cutting at Ansari, after batting for 206 balls and hitting seventeen fours in addition to those two sixes. His straight-driving was a feature of a fluent and composed innings, in only his second first-class match, and his assuredness at the crease made a mockery of his youth.
For Surrey, who were missing seam bowler Jade Dernbach, absent having a scan on a side injury, it was a chastening day on a placid pitch. Nightwatchman Jamie Porter fell cheaply early in the day, but James Foster was the only other Essex casualty before lunch.
Lawrence then added 121 in 21 overs for the fifth wicket with Jesse Ryder, who struck two sixes in a 69-ball 57, before Ansari removed both and added the wicket of Kishen Velani for 15. However Smith, with 50 not out from 72 balls, and Napier launched into a tiring attack before the declaration came at tea, after Napier was caught on the midwicket boundary.