A career-best 243 from Jaik Mickleburgh and Ben Foakes’ first LV= County Championship century enabled Essex to take a firm grip of their Division Two clash with Leicestershire at Chelmsford.
The duo’s efforts saw their side to 521 all out and a first-innings lead of 156. By the close, the visitors had slumped to 47 for three in their second innings and still faced an uphill struggle to avoid defeat.
Resuming on 261 for four, Mickleburgh and Foakes made progress with remarkable ease against a weak visiting attack.
Seldom did the ball beat the bat as they negotiated the morning session and a large slice of the afternoon without alarm in taking the score to 421 with a partnership of 270 in 74 overs.
They were finally separated by left-arm spinner James Sykes when he tempted Foakes to drive into the hands of Ollie Freckingham at long-off.
Foakes laced his innings with three sixes and 15 fours in a 198-ball stay before Mickleburgh's marathon occupation of the crease ended when he was bowled by Freckingham.
In all, he batted eight and three quarter hours, faced 434 deliveries and hit 28 fours and a six.
Despite the punishment Mickleburgh inflicted on Leicestershire, it did not prevent the visiting players rushing to shake his hand as he made his way back to the pavilion.
Graham Napier weighed in with a brisk 41 before he was caught on the deep square-leg boundary attacking Sykes who, on his championship debut, toiled away for 43 overs to claim 4-176.
Paceman Freckingham was the pick of Leicestershire’s bowlers and finished with 3-60 from 27.1 overs.
For most of the day, visiting captain Matthew Boyce could only watch his side being put to the sword from the pavilion, while Greg Smith took over, because he was suffering from back spasms.
Boyce must have been suffering again when his side embarked upon their second innings and Smith departed with only a single on the board when he was caught behind off Tymal Mills.
The introduction of Essex off-spinner Greg Smith gained immediate reward when he trapped first-innings centurion Ned Eckersley lbw with his first delivery.
Worse was to follow, Smith striking again in his second over by having Niall O'Brien caught behind.
Leicestershire will resume on the final day requiring a further 109 runs to avoid an innings defeat.