County Championship: Warwickshire start well after being set 401 to win by Essex
|Specsavers County Championship Division One, The Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford (day three):|
|Essex 245: Cook 84, Rhodes 5-17 & 316-9 dec: Cook 83, Lawrence 74; Rhodes 4-38|
|Warwickshire 161: Siddle 5-33 & 67-1: Banks 36*|
|Warwickshire (3 pts) need 334 runs to beat Essex (4 pts)|
Warwickshire made a good start against title-chasing Essex after being set an unlikely 401 to win.
They reached the close of day three on 67-1 for only the loss of Will Rhodes for 25 after Essex declared on 316-9.
Rhodes earlier took 4-38, including Alastair Cook for the second time in the match, for 83, to finish with a career-best nine-wicket match haul.
Dan Lawrence (74) and Simon Harmer (43) weighed in too but what the Essex spinner does on day four holds the key.
Although Warwickshire have become only the second side to take a game into the final day at Chelmsford this season, they are up against the spinning skills of the County Championship's top wicket taker.
And Essex know that a seventh victory in eight games would put them top of Division One, if leaders Somerset lose to Yorkshire at Headingley.
Earlier, Rhodes was well backed up by his skipper Jeetan Patel, who took 3-97 to go past 50 first-class wickets in a season for the seventh time in eight years.
The Bears, who began with a minimum 121 overs to get the runs, still need a further 334 - and Liam Banks has made a decent start, having already gone past his previous career-best to close on 36.
They chased 217 to win at York last month - the highest successful fourth-innings Division One run chase this season.
But they face almost double that this time round - and they must do it without England Lions pair Dom Sibley and Sam Hain and the still injured Ian Bell.
The highest run chase by any side in the Championship this season was Leicestershire getting 230 to beat Sussex at Hove in Division Two.
Essex batsman Dan Lawrence:
"We set out at the start of the day to bat until tea-time and we achieved that. We negotiated a tough start to the day and then cashed in at the end.
"I've felt good all summer but haven't got to three figures yet. But I've been contributing nicely, although it's been tough to bat at Chelmsford this season.
"The way our boys have been bowling this season, it's going to be a tough ask. If Simon Harmer comes to the party, like he usually does, we'll be OK.
"We've played fantastic cricket over the last five weeks and, if we do go top of the table it's thoroughly deserved. We're particularly hard to beat here."
Bears wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose told BBC Coventry & Warwickshire:
"We're going to chase it. 100 per cent, every single one of us will be thinking how are we going to knock these runs off. That's got to be how we approach it. We've got that spirit and belief in the team.
"I can't remember a season when we've been up against so much adversity. We've been on a five-game road trip away from home and it's been a fairly tough experience.
"But, among the tough times, it's been a great learning experience for a young side. We've shown some real grit and toughness and gained a lot of confidence.
"Will Rhodes worked really hard in the winter, bowled a lot and came back bowling-fit and that's shown. He's put in his overs in the nets and gets better in his line and length and consistency."