Adam Wheater scored a magnificent century to rescue promotion-chasing Hampshire against his former Essex colleagues in their LV= County Championship Division Two contest at Colchester.
The 24-year-old right-hander, fresh from signing a contract extension at the club today, arrived with his side in dire straits at 30 for four and the visitors were still in disarray at 97 for seven when lunch arrived.
At that point Wheater was on 43, but in the afternoon he found an ideal partner in Australian Nathan Rimmington, who was making his championship debut.
Driving and pulling with increasing authority as the pitch became easier, the pugnacious Wheater moved to his century from 134 balls with the help of 11 fours and a hooked six off left-arm spinner Tim Phillips.
He departed soon afterwards for 107 when he was trapped lbw by Sajid Mahmood, the former Lancashire paceman making his first appearance of the summer because regular strike bowlers David Masters, Tymal Mills and Reece Topley were on the injured list.
Wheater, who joined Hampshire at the start of last season, claimed 64 of the 115 runs scored in an eighth-wicket stand with Rimmington spanning 30 overs, and did so on a ground where he struck 135 for Essex against Gloucestershire three years ago.
After the opening day had been washed out, the morning action saw a clatter of wickets that must have left second-placed Hampshire regretting their decision to bat after winning the toss.
— Stuart Kerrison (@Stueyk67) July 14, 2014
Graham Napier and Jesse Ryder each picked up two wickets in their opening spell when the ball swung but not alarmingly so.
Jimmy Adams pushed forward to edge to first slip for eight, Michael Carberry was caught behind by James Foster for a duck and the wicketkeeper also held on to get rid off James Vince for 13.
Liam Dawson, who joined Wheater in committing his future to Hampshire this morning, clipped a simple catch to Ryan ten Doeschate at mid-off.
And when Will Smith provided Tom Westley with another slip catch from Mahmood's third delivery, Hampshire found themselves with half their side back in the pavilion with just 32 on the board.
But Wheater and Sean Ervine brought some sanity to proceedings with a stand of 51 before the latter was well caught by Greg Smith running round from deep midwicket to provide Phillips with his solitary wicket.
Then Westley, one of eight bowlers to operate before lunch - 10 were eventually used - got in on the act, to remove Matt Coles with the help of Monty Panesar at mid-on.
But Wheater and Rimmington then embarked upon their rescue mission to ensure respectability.
We are pleased to announce that both Adam Wheater & Liam Dawson have signed a new contract extension, keeping them at the club until 2017
— Hampshire Cricket (@hantscricket) July 14, 2014
After Wheater's dismissal, Mahmood and Panesar wrapped up the innings to get rid of Danny Briggs and James Tomlinson respectively, leaving the 31-year-old Rimmington unbeaten on 65, only the second time he has topped 50 in a first-class match. It contained nine boundaries.
Essex soon lost Nick Browne when they replied, caught low down at slip by Vince off Coles, but Westley and Ravi Bopara, with 35 and 24 respectively, batted with confidence to compose an unbroken 60-run partnership to leave Essex, on 70 for one, going into the third day 176 behind with nine wickets intact.
Mahmood, who returned 3-54, his best figures for the county, said: "We bowled well as a unit and then Tom Westley and Ravi Bopara have given us a good platform to build on tomorrow.
"Personally, I've felt in good form for the past couple of weeks playing second XI cricket after an injury but I've had to be patient before getting back into the first team. To do that and get some wickets, it’s very satisfying."
Hampshire coach Dale Benkenstein said: "We finally won the toss but probably it would have been better if we hadn't.
"We've had some pretty indifferent batting over the past couple of weeks and that's frustrating with the batting line-up we've got.
"The conditions in that first session were quite nice for swing but we should have been able to get through that better. But Wheats (Wheater) showed his class and it was a grand hundred."