Essex held on for a draw against Middlesex at Chelmsford although two late wickets during the final session had the home side sweating.
Middlesex started the day on 39-1 in their second innings and reached lunch on 161 for six, with Chris Rogers hitting 63 before he was trapped lbw by Reece Topley, while Sam Robson, Anthony Ireland and Dan Housego fell for a combined total of 14 runs.
After the interval, the visitors added 50 more runs before declaring with Neil Dexter unbeaten on 73 with a lead of 305 runs.
Essex needed to see out the remaining overs to claim a draw but were 80-5 at one stage having lost three wickets in the opening 13 overs.
But Adam Wheater's best-ever score of 76 steadied the ship and while he was dismissed in the final session along with Graham Napier, the tail managed to survive.
Only 31.5 overs were possible on day three at Chelmsford due to rain interruptions, but that was enough for Middlesex to establish a first-innings lead of 94 and reach 39-1 by the close in their second innings.
Essex had resumed on 235-7 and fast bowler Tim Murtagh took the first two wickets of the day to chalk up his first five-wicket haul of the season (5-82).
First he had Essex captain James Foster (58) trapped leg before without offering a stroke and then saw David Masters chip to Dawid Malan at short extra cover for just four.
Tim Phillips (28) produced a few aggressive strokes with Reece Topley as his partner, but was unable to take Essex to a third batting point as they came up nine short with 291 after he edged behind off Anthony Ireland.
Essex's only success in ten overs with the ball came when Ravi Bopara removed first innings centurion Sam Robson for just seven with a straight delivery that kept low and hit the stumps, leaving Middlesex 39-1 at the close.
Owais Shah showed his former employers what they are missing with 96 but Essex still trail Middlesex by 150 at stumps on day two.
Former England batsman Shah, who made the switch to Chelmsford this winter after a 17-year association with Middlesex, helped the hosts close on 235-7 in their first innings.
That represented something of a recovery, Essex having been 85-4 in the afternoon before Shah, Adam Wheater (39) and James Foster (44) rallied the cause.
Shah, making his first-class bow for his new county after an early-season IPL stint, hit 14 fours and a six during his 172-ball stay but edged behind four short of a hundred off Corey Collymore (2-47), who had earlier dropped him on 77 from a top-edged hook at Anthony Ireland's bowling.
At the start of the day Middlesex advanced their first innings from 316-6 to 385 all out.
Opening batsman Sam Robson added just 10 to his overnight position before he was lbw to Reece Topley (2-101) for 146, while Topley's fellow seamer Graham Napier finished with 5-56.
Opener Sam Robson carried his bat to score 136 on his first Championship appearance of the season as Middlesex reached 316-6 against Essex at Chelmsford.
The 21-year-old right-hander once again showed his liking for the Essex attack - he scored his only other Championship century when the sides met at Lord's two years ago.
Robson has so far hit 14 boundaries and kept a cool head when Graham Napier was threatening to destroy the innings.
Fresh from his record-breaking 16 sixes in the last match against Surrey, the Essex seamer showed he could also be a destructive force with the ball when he returned for a second spell with Middlesex on 82-1.
In the space of 13 deliveries he removed Dan Housego, Dawid Malan and Neil Dexter without conceding a run.
But then Robson, who had earlier shared in a half-century opening stand with Chris Rogers - who was to become a victim of Ravi Bopara when he chopped on - was to find a reliable partner in Jamie Dalrymple.
They won back the initiative with a partnership of 103 in 29 overs, which finally came to an end when Napier returned for another spell.