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Nottinghamshire 293 (Clarke 67, Mullaney 55, James 54, Harmer 4-71) and 44 for 2 (Slater 19*) drew with Essex 210 (Westley 71, Hutton 5-65)
Essex's hopes of defending the LV= Insurance County Championship and Bob Willis Trophy took a massive hit as they drew with Nottinghamshire at the Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford.
Notts fast bowler Brett Hutton, on just his second outing of the season, took 5 for 65, including his 200th first-class wicket to bowl Essex out for 210 - and give Notts an 83-run first-innings lead.
Ben Slater killed off any potential drama by reaching 19 before bad light, and subsequently rain, ended play at 2.20pm, with the match officially abandoned at 3pm.
The stalemate does Essex no help in their attempt to reach Division One- with favours likely needed from elsewhere to stop one of Warwickshire, Durham and Notts from progressing.
The top four in Group 1 are now separated by only nine points, although Essex have played a game more than their rivals.
Hopes for a positive result had all but been kiboshed by a washed-out second day, along with a pitch which had made scoring slow.
Notts needed 10 morning overs to wrap up the Essex first innings, with both sides picking up a bonus point - the former for taking nine wickets and the latter for sliding past 200.
After the second new ball was taken an over into the day, Shane Snater and Simon Harmer's eighth-wicket partnership reached exactly 50 before both fell in consecutive overs.
First, Snater was adjudged leg-before to Hutton, and then Harmer was pinned in front by Luke Fletcher - the burly seamer's 38th wicket of an impressive campaign.
The innings concluded as Hutton made Sam Cook's off stump go kerplunk to complete his five-wicket haul, the 10th of his career.
In reply, the visitors had no need nor intention to take any risks as they reached 44 for 2 before umpires Ian Blackwell and Neil Mallender ended proceedings.
Peter Siddle provided a probing spell with the new ball and was rewarded with the edge to first slip of Ben Compton.
Ben Duckett was bowled around his legs by Snater, having eaten up 50 minutes, with Slater holding things together for an unbeaten 87-ball 19.
Essex's hopes of defending title dented by draw with Nottinghamshire
Brett Hutton bags five before bad light, rain intervene leaving Essex likely to rely on favours to progress
Brett Hutton returns for Nottinghamshire and puts Essex in trouble
Hutton's 3 for 48 leaves hosts seven down and 113 runs adrift, despite Westley's patient half-century
Lyndon James and Steven Mullaney ride their luck to frustrate Essex once more
Joe Clarke resumes after retiring hurt with wrist injury to reach unbeaten half-century