|LV County Championship Division Two, Chelmsford|
|Close of play, day three: Middlesex 385 & 39-1, Essex 291|
|Middlesex 7 pts, Essex 5 pts|
Tim Murtagh claimed his first five-wicket haul of the season for Middlesex on a badly rain-hit third day's play against Essex at Chelmsford.
Resuming on 235-7, Essex duly got the one run they needed to avoid the follow-on, finishing on 291.
James Foster moved his overnight score on to 58, backed by Tim Phillips (28) in an eighth-wicket stand of 48.
Middlesex then reached the close on 39-1, to increase their lead to 133 going into the final day.
Only 31.5 overs were possible between stoppages for rain.
CLOSE OF PLAY SUMMARIES
BBC Essex's Nick Gledhill:
"Optimistic Essex supporters will be hoping for a repeat of the successful run chase against Glamorgan, but this is an untrustworthy pitch and Middlesex have the bowlers to exploit the uneven bounce it provides.
"It is to be hoped that Middlesex are prepared to gamble by leaving Essex to score around 280 in two sessions.
"But caution may prevail as the visitors will want to protect the 28-point lead they hold over a side who they may still view as potential promotion rivals."
BBC London 94.9's Kevin Hand:
"After a frustrating third day, a result may be a long shot unless the teams come together to try and set a run chase.
"With 96 overs left, Middlesex may look to score quickly and set a total without any negotiations but they are unlikely to offer a generous target, the main reason being the danger posed by Ravi Bopara, Graham Napier and former Middlesex man Owais Shah.
"Tim Murtagh led a disciplined and impressive performance from the Middlesex bowlers, richly deserving his haul of five wickets, which included four of the top seven."