|LV= County Championship Division Two, Chelmsford|
|Close, day three: Gloucestershire 224 & 194-4 v Essex 541|
|Essex 8pts, Glos 2pts|
Ravi Bopara struck a century as Essex took control against Gloucestershire on the third day at Chelmsford.
Resuming on 425-3, Bopara added the two runs he needed to complete his 25th first-class ton, before going on to reach 147 as the hosts made 541.
Needing 317 to make Essex bat again, Gloucestershire lost Will Tavara and Chris Dent as they struggled to 30-2.
Alex Gidman made 53 but David Masters and Reece Topley took two wickets each to leave the visitors 194-4 at stumps.
Ian Cockbain was 42 not out and Will Gidman unbeaten on 26 but, still trailing by 123, the away side will need to bat well on the final day to avoid defeat.
BBC Essex's Nick Gledhill:
"Gloucestershire fought tenaciously on a much more even third day, but Essex remain on course for a second win to keep their promotion hopes alive.
"Ravi Bopara reached his second hundred of the season with a six in the opening over, but after he fell for 147, the Gloucestershire spinners impressively wrapped up the Essex innings.
"Trailing by 317, the visitors then lost both openers to a superb opening spell from David Masters before Alex Gidman and Hamish Marshall added 95.
"Any hope for Gloucestershire now relies on Ian Cockbain and Will Gidman surviving a new ball that is due in 15 overs."