Ben Foakes chalked up the highest score of his career as Essex took control against Gloucestershire at Bristol.
Foakes was unbeaten on 132 and with James Foster, who hit 91, combined in a 218-run stand for the sixth wicket to help Essex to 305 for eight at the close.
That represented a lead of 171 after Gloucestershire’s tail added just 30 more this morning to be bowled out for 134.
Bad weather had blighted the first two days of play in the LV= County Championship Division Two clash and another hour was lost this morning.
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 in the innings for the Essex paceman.
All the Gloucestershire wickets were shared between Masters, who finished with 6-48, and Graham Napier, who also took two today to return 4-62, 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 Alastair 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 Matt Taylor for four.
— Essex Cricket (@EssexCricket) April 29, 2014
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 five.
The visitors lost three wickets in close succession having been 59 for two, with Ravi Bopara and Greg Smith caught behind off Graeme McCarter before Jaik Mickleburgh was lbw to Matt Taylor.
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, surpassing his previous best of 120.
With a lead of 171 runs, Essex opened up the possibility of going for victory on the final day tomorrow.