Worcestershire produced a spirited fightback on day two but were still left with a huge task to avoid defeat against promotion-chasing Essex in their LV= County Championship Division Two match at Chelmsford.
After Essex had posted a first-innings total of 351 to earn a lead of 249, the visitors reached the close on 163 for three in their second innings with opener Matt Pardoe hitting an unbeaten 74.
The home side resumed on 199 for four in the morning but soon lost Ryan ten Doeschate and James Foster before Graham Napier joined Ben Foakes to revive the innings.
They added 92 prior to Foakes being bowled by paceman Alan Richardson immediately after lunch for a 71 that included nine boundaries.
By that time, Napier had reached a half-century with an on-driven six off Jack Shantry. It was the seventh time he had passed fifty in a championship match this season but he was to be left stranded on 64, an effort that also included nine fours, as the innings was brought to a swift conclusion.
David Masters, Monty Panesar and Reece Topley were sent back in the space of four deliveries, with Shantry claiming the last two with successive balls on his way to figures of 3-76, while Richardson finished with 4-92.
Faced with a massive deficit of 249, skipper Daryl Mitchell and Pardoe were to provide the ideal platform for a Worcestershire fightback, although they needed a slice of luck early in the innings.
Pardoe had made just six of the 21 on the board when he was put down by Nick Browne at third slip off Napier and was to make good his escape by helping Mitchell take his side beyond their first-innings total of 102 without a setback.
Mitchell reached his half-century with four successive boundaries off Topley and looked so at ease that it came as something of a surprise when he was dismissed with the total on 113.
He had contributed 62 when a sweep off left-arm spinner Panesar looped up into the hands of first slip Owais Shah.
Pardoe moved to his half-century from 120 deliveries with the aid of seven fours, only to lose two more partners.
Moeen Ali, after driving off-spinner Greg Smith for six, was undone by Panesar when he dabbed a simple catch to Shah at first slip after making 21 and Tom Fell followed him back to the pavilion after Smith trapped him lbw.
It leaves Pardoe with the task of performing heroics if Worcestershire are to deny Essex their fifth championship victory of the campaign.