LV County Championship - Division Two
Chelmsford - Day Four
Gloucestershire 275 (M J North 98, G R Napier 4-50)& 184 (S D Snell 53, Danish Kaneria 5-53) v Essex 279 (J S Foster 57, S P Kirby 5-60) & 181-2 (R S Bopara 103 no, N J Dexter 71 no)
Essex (19pts) beat Gloucestershire (5pts) by 8 wkts
Ravi Bopara reached his hundred in a hurry as Essex raced to an eight-wicket victory over Gloucestershire on the fourth morning.
The England batsman was unbeaten on 83 not out with the home side needing only 31 more runs to reach their target of 181.
He managed to score the 17 runs he required to reach three figures for the third time this year in the LV County Championship.
Boapara finished up unbeaten on 103 alongside Neil Dexter, the on-loan Kent batsman contributing 71 out of an unbroken third-wicket partnership of 174.
The visiting players applauded Bopara's ton despite an ill-tempered final session on day three which ended with umpires Ian Gould and Nigel Cowley having words with both captains.
Things came to a head after Essex, with the agreement of the officials, decided to claim the extra half-hour in an attempt to finish the game.
However, after being made to return to the field, Gloucestershire were annoyed that the hosts made no real attempt to score the additional 64 they required.
Essex will return on the final day at 150-2 in their second innings needing just another 31 to beat Gloucestershire.
Set a target of 181 at Chelmsford, the hosts slumped to 7-2 with opening pair Jason Gallian (1) and Varun Chopra (4) back in the pavilion.
But third-wicket duo Neil Dexter (60no) and Ravi Bopara (83no) shared an unbroken stand of 143 to take promotion-chasing Essex to the brink of victory by the close.
Gloucestershire had resumed their second innings on 70-6 at the start of the third day but slumped to 184 all out in the face of some disciplined bowling from seamer David Masters and leg-spinner Danish Kaneria.
Masters (3-37) removed Steve Snell (52) and Kabir Ali (43) before Kaneria polished off the innings to finish with figures of 5-53.
Danish Kaneria put Essex in control at Chelmsford as Gloucestershire closed day two on 70-6 in their second innings.
The visitors had bowled out their opponents for 279 to trail by just four but soon suffered a collapse on a dry, turning pitch.
Pakistan international Kaneria was understandably the major weapon for the home side, his 11-over spell seeing him pick up 3-13.
Fellow spinner James Middlebrook, who had earlier made 41 with the bat, picked up two wickets as Gloucestershire finished the day just 66 ahead with only four wickets still in hand.
They could well have had a bigger first-innings lead had it not been for Essex's lower order, the last four wickets contributing 170 runs.
After Varun Chopra (47) and Jason Gallian (48) shared an opening stand of 74, James Foster top-scored with 57, the tail wagging to put the home side narrowly in front before they were finally bowled out.
Graham Napier warmed up for Twenty20 finals day with a four-wicket haul as Essex bowled out Gloucestershire for 275 on day one at Chelmsford.
The big-hitting all-rounder was in fine form with the ball, recording his best figures of the season in the LV County Championship to help the hosts pick up maximum bowling points.
Kadeer Ali was his first victim with the score on 25 and he followed that up by bowling Alex Gidman for 31 before returning to wrap up the innings, claiming the last two wickets to fall.
Gloucestershire's situation could have been even worse had it not been for the efforts of Marcus North, the Australian striking 16 boundaries to top score with 98.
He looked set to reach three figures for the first time in four-day action this season before falling to Danish Kaneria, who also trapped Chris Taylor leg before to finish with 2-67.
Fellow spinner James Middlebrook also picked up two wickets and Essex's opening batsmen quickly followed up the hard work of the bowlers, reaching the close of play on 66 without loss, Varun Chopra leading the way with 43 not out.