Essex’s hopes of winning promotion virtually came to an end during a drawn LV= County Championship Division Two clash with Glamorgan at Chelmsford.
They go into their final match against Hampshire next week 20 points adrift of Northamptonshire, who now need just five points from their battle with Worcestershire to ensure that they join the Lancashire in the top-flight next season.
Despite Owais Shah’s first century of the season and a belligerent 89 from only 67 balls by Ravi Bopara, which helped Essex to a lunch declaration on 424 for six, the Welsh county had no difficulty in denying the home side the victory they were desperately seeking.
Going in a second time and trailing by 102, they had reached 181 for two when the teams shook hands at the start of the final hour.
Needing to make early inroads into the innings, Essex failed to make an impact with the new ball as Gareth Rees and Will Bragg put together an opening stand of 82.
By the time Bragg was caught behind off Graham Napier, the match was destined to end in a draw – from which Essex claimed 11 points to Glamorgan’s eight.
The visitors were content to use the remainder of the game as a “net” ahead of tomorrow’s Yorkshire Bank 40 final with Nottinghamshire at Lord’s and Rees took advantage to help himself to 76 before cutting Graham Napier to Ben Foakes in the gully.
Murray Goodwin also enjoyed himself by following up his first-innings half-century with an unbeaten 46 before the captains called it a day.
Earlier, Essex supporters were at least treated to some fine strokeplay by Shah and Bopara after Jaik Mickleburgh was dismissed by Michael Hogan having added just five runs to his overnight 124.
The fourth-wicket pair tucked into Glamorgan’s attack with such relish that they added 130 in 20 overs, during which Shah moved to his century from 147 balls with the help of 11 fours and two sixes.
He went on to make 120, adding another two boundaries before driving Ruaidhri Smith into the hands of Rees at long-on.
Bopara’s effort, which contained four sixes and seven fours, was brought to an end when Smith had him caught at deep extra cover, a success which he followed-up by removing Napier in the same over – taken on the deep square-leg boundary by Ben Wright.
The morning session saw Essex plunder 184 runs from 29 overs after they had resumed on 240 for two but such enterprising batting went unrewarded in conditions that increasingly favoured the batsmen as the game progressed.