An unbeaten 83 from Owais Shah steered Essex to 183-4 by the end of a rain-hit first day of their LV= County Championship clash with Kent in Canterbury.
The former England batsman hit eight boundaries as he batted for almost four hours in tricky conditions to post his best four-day score of the season so far.
Shah shared in a third-wicket stand of 55 with Gautam Gambhir (36) and then put on an unbroken 69 with Ben Foakes, who was on 38 not out when bad light ended play early.
Kent - fresh off their second win of the season at Glamorgan last week - had understandably put the visitors in after winning the toss, and immediately the decision paid off.
Essex lost right-hander Jaik Mickleburgh without scoring to the third ball of the match when the opener popped a bat-pad chance to Daniel Bell-Drummond at forward short leg off the bowling of Mark Davies.
Having replaced Charlie Shreck in the attack, Darren Stevens struck with his seventh ball of the day to make it 19-2 when Greg Smith (15) edged an attempted drive to first slip.
Kent might have picked up a third wicket in the opening session when Shah, then on seven, top-edged an attempted pull against Calum Haggett, only for stand-in Kent skipper Geraint Jones to spill a difficult diving catch.
India opener Gambhir, back in county action after returning home for personal reasons, looked well set until a loose drive saw him caught at cover off the bowling of Shreck.
When off-spinner Adam Riley had Ryan ten Doeschate leg before for 11, Essex were 117-4 and in danger of subsiding.
However, Foakes teamed up with Shah for 23 overs thereafter, carrying their side through to the point where umpires Jeremy Lloyds and Neil Mallender decided that the light was too poor to continue.