England all-rounder Ravi Bopara's 162 helped edge Essex into a slender first-innings lead on a rain-hit third day of the LV= County Championship Division Two match with Kent, where Mitchell Claydon fought back with five wickets.
By the close of play, Kent had reached 35 without loss from their hour back at the crease. Captain Robert Key was unbeaten on 17 and Daniel Bell-Drummond 11 not out. Essex had finally been dismissed for 440, which gave them a lead of 53.
The covers at Canterbury came off just after 12pm, and it was Kent who made the first breakthrough.
Opener Tom Westley was caught behind having added only two more to an overnight 114 when he edged a new ball from Claydon to see his stay at the crease ended after more than five hours, with 14 boundaries, and Essex were 267 for two.
The partnership of 243 was a new record for the second wicket against Kent, which had stood since 1901.
Bopara, resuming on 112, was then supported by New Zealander Jesse Ryder through to lunch with Essex at 277 for two.
Ryder, however, was not able to stay around into the afternoon session, as he was bowled by Claydon for 10.
Jesse Ryder is bowled
Bopara, though, continued his studious innings, passing 150 as he was backed up by Essex captain James Foster, who was eventually caught behind on 46 off Darren Stevens having just sent the Kent bowler for six.
Ben Harmison finally ended Bopara's inspired innings when he induced an edge through to wicketkeeper Sam Billings.
Bopara's 162 lasted 294 balls over six and a half hours, with 13 boundaries and one six. Essex were 373 for five.
Dutchman Ryan ten Doeschate then pushed Essex ahead of Kent's first-innings 387, before he was out for 20 with the visitors at 399 for six.
That triggered the loss of two quick wickets with Ben Foakes (six) and Monty Panesar, for a duck, both falling cheaply to spinner Adam Riley, before Essex did secure the additional batting five batting bonus points.
Number 10 batsman Tymal Mills scored a rapid 30 from just 17 deliveries with five boundaries and one over the rope, while David Masters was four not out, before rain again took the players off for an early tea.
Tymal Mills made a breezy 30
The weather delayed Essex's resumption from 433 for eight, but eventually play was able to continue around quarter-to-six with a potential 21 overs left.
Kent made good use of that late session, as Claydon trapped Mills (30) leg before and then completed five wickets for 82 when Masters was caught by Brendan Nash at cover. Tom Moore was six not out.