Adam Wheater scored a century against his old county and Matt Coles returned 6-71 as Essex’s slim promotion hopes were wiped out by Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl.
Wheater’s 122 helped Hampshire to 456 and Essex - needing maximum batting points to have any chance of overhauling second-placed Northamptonshire - then collapsed to 207 all out as on-loan seamer Coles recorded his best figures of the season.
After being invited to follow on, the visitors closed on 44 without loss - still 205 in arrears.
Wheater, who rejected the chance to stay at Essex at the end of last season in favour of a fresh start, scored at more than a run-a-ball and hit 15 fours and a six in his highest home score since moving to the south coast.
Greg Smith had Wheater caught at deep midwicket and finished with 5-58 but by then Essex knew they had to take advantage of an easy-paced wicket to stay in contention.
That became less likely as Coles sent back openers Jaik Mickleburgh, who lost his middle stump, and Gautam Gambhir with only 16 on the board.
Tom Westley and Smith shared 65 for the third wicket but the latter drove James Tomlinson to mid-on after making 37 and it was something of a procession thereafter.
Ruel Brathwaite had Westley pinned on the back foot for his team's top score of 40 and while several Essex batsmen made promising starts, none were able to sustain an innings.
Ben Foakes gloved a bouncer from Sean Ervine to first slip, James Foster pulled Coles to Brathwaite at deep midwicket and debutant Kishen Velani gave Coles a soft fourth wicket when he steered to Adams at cover.
Coles returned after tea to finish off the Essex tail, dismissing Graham Napier and Monty Panesar in quick succession and leaving dispirited Essex needing 249 to avoid the ignominy of ending the season with an innings defeat.
Already without key players David Masters, Ravi Bopara and Reece Topley - all rested - Essex made a more determined start to their second innings after Adams had enforced the follow-on.
Mickleburgh and Gambhir resisted for 13.4 overs before bad light and rain brought a premature end to play.