Derbyshire took another step towards Division One when they held out for a draw in a tense finale to their clash with Essex at Derby.
After starting the fourth day with a lead of 64, Essex overcame the loss of Owais Shah (26) in the fourth over to set Derbyshire a target of 274 in a minimum of 58 overs.
Tom Westley (82) and Mark Pettini (50) kept the scoreboard ticking over after Shah's dismissal, while Ryan ten Doeschate and James Foster made half-centuries before the visitors declared on 294-5.
Wayne Madsen responded to the challenge with a 29-ball 31 in less than nine overs before he was trapped lbw by David Masters but the home side's chase faltered after leg-spinner Tom Craddock struck twice in an over to remove Paul Borrington and Usman Khawaja, who were both stumped coming down the pitch.
Wes Durston (60) and Dan Redfern (46) put Derbyshire back on track adding 107 in 23 overs but their departures prompted the hosts to adopt a holding pattern that saw Ross Whiteley and Tony Palladino cling on for 5.2 overs to steer Derbyshire to 173-7 before the rain became too heavy.
Derbyshire lead the way at the top of Division Two by 19 points with two games remaining, while Essex's promotion hopes are all-but over.
David Masters claimed another five-wicket haul before Derbyshire's lower order fought back strongly to leave the County Championship match against Essex at Derby fascinatingly poised.
The seam bowler finished with impressive figures of 5-51 from 30 overs but half-centuries from Ross Whiteley and Tom Poynton helped the Division Two leaders rally to reach 266.
Derbyshire's last three wickets put on 146 and Essex lost Jaik Mickleburgh in the fourth over of their second innings, but an attacking unbeaten half-century from Tom Westley carried the visitors to 85-1, a lead of 64, at the close of day three.
When David Wainwright skied a drive to mid off to give Masters his third five-wicket bag of the season, Derbyshire were in trouble at 120-7 but, just as in the Essex innings, an eighth-wicket stand put them back in the match.
Whiteley flicked Maurice Chambers, who proved expensive, over square leg for six on his way to his second fifty of the summer and Derbyshire had their first batting point in the bank before Tom Craddock beat Whiteley's attempted drive.
But there was more resistance to come from the tail as Tim Groenewald joined Poynton to add another 34 runs in 10 overs and although Napier beat Groenewald for pace, Mark Turner helped Poynton secure a second batting point.
They scored 26 to give the home side an unexpected lead of 21 and Essex had only just wiped out the deficit when Mickleburgh was caught behind driving at Groenewald.
Westley's driving was more productive as he plundered 10 fours in his 51 and with Owais Shah unbeaten on 26, Essex will go into the last day with a chance of forcing the victory they need to keep their slim hopes of promotion alive.
Derbyshire and Essex failed to make it out onto the field on Wednesday at Derby as rain wiped out day two of their LV= County Championship clash.
Steady rain throughout the morning ruled out any action before lunch and although the storms passed in the afternoon, it was too late for the match to resume.
Umpires Mark Benson and Jeff Evans held two inspections in the hope the outfield and square would dry out enough for some play to be possible before finalling announcing play was abandoned at 5pm.
Yet despite the loss of a whole day in the Division Two fixture, there is still a real chance of a positive result after 13 wickets fell on Tuesday.
Derbyshire will be hoping to resume their first innings on 28-3 after bowling out Essex for 245.
David Wainwright secured maximum bowling points for promotion favourites Derbyshire, taking 4-64 against Essex on day one at Derby.
Essex were bowled out for 245 but David Masters added to his season's best of 35 by leading the visitors' fightback with the ball to reduce the Division Two leaders to 28-3 at the close .
Derbyshire's decision to put Essex in was quickly justified when Tony Palladino struck against his former county by having Jaik Mickleburgh caught behind for five in the fifth over.
The visitors' batsmen struggled to get going though, with Ryan ten Doeschate (29), James Foster (31) and Adam Wheater (26) all falling after making solid starts.
Graham Napier, who top scored with 42, and Masters put on a stand of 74 in 19 overs to at least earn their side a batting point before Masters continued the Essex recovery with the ball.
He first bowled Madsen, who made a double century in the previous game, for two and had Usman Khawaja caught at second slip by Westley for a 14 ball duck fefore Napier trapped night watchman Palladino lbw in the penultimate over.