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Essex's established new-ball attack of Jamie Porter and Sam Cook shared what spoils were going on the first day at Chelmsford as the tense Specsavers County Championship title race took several more twists and turns.
Porter and Cook took two wickets each against Surrey as Essex tried to make up for lost time on a frustrating day shorn of 50 overs and book-ended by bad light.
Requiring a win from their penultimate fixture of the season to keep alive their challenge, Essex had been forced to sit and twiddle their thumbs in the pavilion as Somerset racked up three bowling points while Hampshire wickets tumbled in quick order at Southampton.
For more than four hours in total Essex were powerless to react as Somerset extended their lead at the top beyond the eight points with which they started the day.
However, by the close of a grey, foreshortened first day, Essex had collected one bowling point of their own - with the chance of adding to it in the morning - as they had Surrey 137-4 when the last bout of bad light ended play 25 minutes before the scheduled finish.
Earlier, umpires Ian Gould and Martin Saggers had emerged under uniformly leaden skies at regular intervals to check their light meters before finally being satisfied enough to call the captains together for a delayed toss at 2pm.
Stand-in Surrey skipper Ben Foakes opted for a contested toss, won it and elected to bat under the full glare of the Chelmsford floodlights.
Porter made the breakthrough with the first ball of the ninth over. Mark Stoneman had punished Porter's two previous balls with boundaries but found himself pinned lbw for 16. The other opener, Scott Borthwick, departed on 21 in Porter's next over when he stretched forward down the wrong line and edged behind.
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Simon Harmer, on as early as the 10th over, had Ollie Pope tied in knots at times. The young England batsman gave a sharp chance to a diving Dan Lawrence at short mid-wicket when nought and then survived a missed stumping chance on eight when he ventured recklessly down the wicket.
Jamie Smith, too, was beaten four times in an over outside his off stump by Aaron Beard, but he brought up the 50-run partnership from the last ball before tea with his fourth boundary.
However, the first ball after tea heralded the third Surrey wicket as Pope was beaten for pace by Sam Cook and departed lbw.
Ten Cook balls later, Smith hung out his bat and steered the ball to Harmer at second slip as Surrey sank from 88-2 to 99-4.
Foakes battered Beard for three boundaries in four balls, one flicked contemptuously through mid-wicket, as he attempted to singlehandedly wrest back the initiative that was beginning to move in one direction.
By stumps Foakes had six fours to his name in an unbeaten 40-ball 31. Will Jacks had helped him put on 38 for the fifth wicket.
Surrey, meanwhile, arrived in Chelmsford without overseas batsman Dean Elgar who has had to return to South Africa for family reasons.
Essex bowling coach Andre Nel said: "You can't control what's happening anywhere else. All we can control is what we can control and make sure we are on the button.
"Hopefully we can strike up front and try and bowl them out as cheaply as possible. Then we'll need to bat well and take it from there. I think the morning's session is going to be crucial for us.
"I think it's slightly better than the Chelmsford wickets we've played on this season. It's slightly drier and it's not moving as much. But I think we still need to bowl slightly better and with a bit more patience and if we do and get them out for 200-250 we're still in with a good chance."