Northamptonshire 143 for 3 trail Essex 360 (Foster 98, Pettini 68, Nijjar 53, Azharullah 4-74) by 217 runs
On the day that Paul Grayson's departure as Essex coach was announced, a veteran captain also under scrutiny, James Foster tried to patch up an unrewarding season with the bat at a time when the new cricket chairman Ronnie Irani is surely looking not for repairs but rebuilds.
Essex skipper Foster improved the home side's fortunes with an innings of 98 as they were eventually dismissed for 360 before their opponents ended the second day on 143 for 3 to leave the match evenly poised.
Mark Pettini and Aron Nijjar also contributed half-centuries after the home side had been reduced to 119 for 6 earlier in the game. Foster and Pettini combined to post 146 for the seventh wicket to ease their side out of troubled waters, but yet another recovery from a collapse- however impressive - is unlikely to wash with Irani who has openly stated that a good win percentage in one-day cricket without a trophy, but acceptance of the Second Division of the Championship, will not wash.
Pettini, playing only his second Championship match in a year, was the first to reach his fifty, having faced 117 balls to reach the milestone with the seventh boundary of his innings.
Foster's half-century spanned 89 balls of which he steered six to the ropes and the pair seemed set to bat throughout the morning session only for Pettini to fall to the final ball before the interval.
Having scored 68, he was undone by a back of a length delivery from Rory Kleinveldt that swung and caught the edge of the bat to give wicket-keeper David Murphy a straight-forward catch.
Nijjar, the emerging 20 year-old all rounder, then joined his skipper with the total on 265 for 7, to add 74 runs in 21 overs. He prospered by virtue of an uncomplicated approach playing sensibly and punishing effortlessly the unworthy delivery.
Spinner Rob Keogh ended the stand with the first delivery of a new spell when Foster, seeking the 2 runs he needed to reach his first century of the season, picked out long-on to leave the home side 339 for 8 but Nijjar, was not to be denied a maiden first-class half-century.
That arrived from 79 balls with 7 fours before he fell to paceman Ollie Stone for 53 who had earlier twice beaten the batsman outside off stump before getting his reward. Stone found a delivery that flew off the edge and into the gloves of Murphy.
The keeper pouched his fourth catch of the innings when Azharullah wrapped up the innings to dismiss Jamie Porter. The bowler ended with excellent figures of 4 for 74 from 30.1 overs with his chief support coming from Kleinveldt with 3 for 88.
Essex had the encouragement of an early wicket when Murphy, having scored half of the 16 runs on the board fended at a ball from Porter and was caught by Dan Lawrence at short leg with the fielder completing the catch at the second attempt.
Fellow opener Ben Duckett slashed at a delivery of width from Ravi Bopara and was caught by wicket-keeper Foster for 32 and then with the total on 115, Alex Wakely drove Nijjar to mid-on.
Keogh, with 37, and Richard Levi, 13, settled in and took their side through to the close without any further concerns. They will resume in the morning with the responsibility of avoiding any early loss of wickets and passing the initiative to the home side.