Full marks for Masters
David Masters picked up five wickets to help Essex into a commanding position on the first day of their LV County Championship Division Two match against former county Leicestershire.
Overcast conditions and a bowler-friendly Grace Road pitch saw 14 wickets fall in the day with Leicestershire dismissed for 107 after being put in to bat.
Essex then slumped 34 for three in the first 14 overs of their reply but recovered to reach 144 for four before bad light brought an early close with six overs remaining.
Captain Mark Pettini led the Essex fightback with 58 during a fourth-wicket stand of 66 with wicketkeeper James Foster.
Foster was still there at the close on 28 with Jaik Mickleburgh unbeaten on 27 on his championship debut.
But it was Masters who would probably have enjoyed the day more than anyone.
He left Leicestershire to join Essex at the end of last season and has twice done well since against his former employers.
He returned career-best figures of 6-24 earlier in the season at Chelmsford and had Leicestershire on the rack again here, claiming 5-35 on a helpful surface.
Ryan ten Doeschate also cashed in, taking 4-16 in 7.1 overs, but it was a poor batting performance by the home side with HD Ackerman the only man to reach double figures.
Leicestershire would have been in a sorry mess without the South African's unbeaten 55 off 125 balls.
He spent three hours in the middle showing the sort of concentration and defiance his colleagues sorely lacked.
After Ackerman, the next highest scorer was number 10 batsman Nadeem Malik, who made nine, while the biggest partnership of the innings was 22 for the fourth wicket between Ackerman and Josh Cobb.
Leicestershire never recovered from a miserable morning session when they lost six wickets for 59 runs in 30 overs.
Wickets continued to tumble in the afternoon and the innings lasted just 47.1 overs as Leicestershire collapsed to their lowest total of the season.
Essex also hit trouble in the early part of their reply with Malik claiming two wickets in an over and Sam Cliff taking his maiden championship wicket when he trapped Varun Chopra lbw.
Essex’s plight would have been worse had Pettini not been dropped by Cobb in the slips off Malik when he had made 17.
Pettini went on to reach his fifty off 53 balls before Cobb made amends for his lapse by holding on to a more difficult catch off Dillon du Preez.
But Foster and Mickleburgh joined forces in an unbroken stand of 44 to see Essex through to the close as bad light brought a premature finish.