Northants are in danger of suffering double Essex disappointment after a difficult third day at the County Ground.
Essex, who are the only side to beat David Ripley’s men in County Championship Division Two so far this season, piled on the runs, finishing with a first innings total of 640.
That meant Northants, who had made 444 in their first innings, were trailing by 196 when they started their second innings.
And it didn’t begin well, with four wickets being lost before the close, leaving the home side on 56 for four, a deficit of 140 runs going into the final day.
Ryan ten Doeschate and James Foster were the Essex stars on day three as they both made sparkling centuries in a record seventh-wicket stand.
Both ten Doeschate and Foster had only one half-century each in the County Championship this season but came out with great intent to haul the match Essex’s way.
Northants retained a foothold in the game for the first session and a half but by tea, they were facing another second-innings of batting out for a draw.
Second time around in 19 overs to the close, they suffered a top-order calamity.
Rob Newton fell lbw to Matt Quinn in the third over for a duck and Rob Keogh lbw to Ravi Bopara for 10.
Josh Cobb was bowled by Quinn for a golden duck and when Ben Duckett went to sweep Ashar Zaidi’s first ball and was caught at short leg, Northants were staring at defeat.