Essex 305 for 8 (Foakes 132*, Foster 91) lead Gloucestershire 134 (Masters 6-48, Napier 4-62) by 171 runs
Ben Foakes chalked up the highest score of his career as Essex took control against Gloucestershire at the County Ground.
Bad weather had blighted the first two days of play in the Division Two clash in Bristol and another hour was lost on Tuesday morning. The hosts resumed on 104 for 6 but added just 30 more runs for their remaining wickets, and a 218-run partnership between Foakes and James Foster helped Essex to 305 for 8 at the close.
David Masters took his fifth wicket in the fourth over of the day to snare Ian Saxelby for a single, and Gary McCarter's scalp made it six for the innings for the Essex paceman. All the Gloucestershire wickets were shared between Masters and Graham Napier, who also took two on Tuesday, including the final one of Chris Dent.
Opener Dent had stayed firm while all others fell around him and was eventually out for 61, caught by Alistair Cook. The England captain scored centuries in both his first two county matches of the season but lasted just five balls this time before being caught by McCarter off the bowling of Matt Taylor for 4.
Cook was followed back to the pavilion by Tom Westley, who gave injury-hit bowler Saxelby his first Championship wicket since August 2012. And Essex looked in danger of not even passing Gloucestershire's meagre total when they slipped to 71 for 5.
The visitors lost three wickets in close succession having been 59 for 2, with Ravi Bopara, Greg Smith and Jaik Mickleburgh all falling. That brought Foakes and captain Foster together, and it took Gloucestershire 44.2 overs to break the partnership. Foster was within nine runs of a century himself when he edged Saxelby behind.
Napier and Masters went before the close, too, but Foakes stayed resolute, taking his score to 132 not out, surpassing his previous best of 120. With a lead of 171 runs, Essex also opened up the possibility of going for victory on the final day of play on Wednesday.