ENGLAND Test captain Alastair Cook came within 19 runs of a double-century to put Essex on the front foot in their County Championship Division Two match against Derbyshire.
Going into the third day at Chelmsford, the hosts had recovered from a first-innings collapse of 94 to put themselves in charge, with Cook at the forefront of the fightback.
His contribution may have been vast but once he had been removed for 181, Derbyshire quickly mopped up the tail with Essex ending their second innings all out for 425.
But a spate of wickets towards the close of play meant Derbyshire finished the day on 167 for five, still requiring 199 runs for the win.
Starting the morning on 297 for five, Cook and Ben Foakes did not have too much time to build their partnership before Foakes was bowled by Mark Footitt for 22, having added just nine to his overnight score.
That bought skipper James Foster to the crease and he played a good supporting hand as Cook continued his march.
But Cook could not turn his stellar effort into a 200 as a leading edge proffered a return catch to spinner David Wainwright shortly after lunch.
Once Cook’s long stand was over Derbyshire removed the tail without too much effort as Graham Napier could add just nine and Monty Panesar run out for a duck.
Foster completed a 104-ball half-century with his eighth four but was stranded on 55 when Tymal Mills (two) became Durston’s third victim, leaving Essex defending a lead of 365.
Derbyshire’s chase started at a frenetic pace as they scored 15 from the opening two overs, with Stephen Moore leading the way.
But Moore could only reach 32, from 49 balls, before he was caught at mid-wicket off the bowling of Panesar.
Derbyshire captain Wayne Madsen came and went for four before Mills picked up his second wicket of the innings six overs later, trapping Billy Godleman lbw for 38.
As Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Chesney Hughes appeared to be guiding their side safely through to stumps, Mills struck once again as he had Hughes out lbw for 24.
There was still time for Greg Smith to have Durston caught by Foster, giving the visitors an uphill battle to save the match on the final day.