JAMIE Porter wrecked Middlesex’s top order with a devastating spell to put Essex on top in their LV= Insurance County Championship game at Lord’s and eclipse Toby Roland-Jones’ seven-wicket haul.

Porter, operating in tandem with seam partner Sam Cook, ended the day with six for 35 and looked virtually unplayable as the pair ripped out Middlesex’s first four batters – all for ducks – to reduce them to a perilous four for four.

That burst followed Roland-Jones’ return of seven for 61 to dismiss Essex for 266, the second-best figures of his long career and a performance that ushered him beyond the landmark of 500 first-class wickets.

Ryan Higgins and John Simpson oversaw a spirited recovery with their sixth-wicket stand of 127, but the home side trail by 96 after being bowled out for 170 at stumps.

With Essex resuming on 162 for three, Dan Lawrence looked impatient to reach his hundred as he immediately gave Tim Murtagh the charge and swatted him over the short leg-side boundary.

Lawrence got there with a perfectly-timed straight drive for four off Higgins, but he played across the line at Tom Helm soon afterwards, missed and was trapped in front of middle and leg for 105.

Matt Critchley almost played on to Helm and then retreated into his shell, taking the best part of two hours to reach double figures as Essex’s scoring rate slowed to a crawl.

They added just nine runs in the 10 overs which preceded the new ball and Roland-Jones – last year’s leading Championship wicket-taker with 67 – made good use of it, picking up three in rapid succession to complete his five-for.

Former Middlesex player Adam Rossington wafted a loose shot into the waiting hands of deep square leg before the captain removed Simon Harmer, leg before shuffling across, and Shane Snater with consecutive deliveries.

The clatter of wickets prompted a more adventurous approach by Critchley, clubbing four boundaries off the first over of the afternoon from Helm to secure a batting bonus point.

However, the Essex tail folded rapidly, with Critchley the last man out for 55 as he top-edged Roland-Jones and wicketkeeper Simpson, running back into the sun, judged the catch perfectly with a flying leap.

But if Middlesex appeared to have the upper hand, that notion was dispelled inside the opening over of their reply as Porter pinned Sam Robson plumb lbw with his first ball before his third pierced Pieter Malan’s defences.

Stephen Eskinazi followed in Porter’s next over, caught down the leg side, and when Mark Stoneman edged Sam Cook to first slip for the fourth successive duck of the innings the home side were reeling.

That was the first time since 1975, when Surrey’s bowlers inflicted an identical blow against Lancashire, that a Championship side’s top four had all failed to score.

It took Middlesex almost five overs to muster a run off the bat, with Max Holden pushing a single on the off side and the left-hander reached six before he was taken low in the slips to become Porter’s fourth victim.

Middlesex’s position might have been even more precarious had Rossington clung onto Simpson’s edge when he had scored five, but he and Higgins gradually saw off the opening pair and launched a counter-attack.

Having edged Porter past his stumps to get off the mark, Higgins was the more aggressive of the pair, reaching his half-century from 62 balls and dispatching Harmer for four to ensure the follow-on was averted.

But the Essex spinner got his man late in the day, bowling Higgins for 70 before Porter returned to collect two more wickets, including that of Simpson who miscued to mid-on for 63.