Simon Harmer’s six-wicket haul helped Essex to a first innings lead over Surrey in the Bob Willis Trophy.
The South African shared the wickets with trusty partner Jamie Porter, four for 53, as Surrey were bowled out for 187, in response to Essex’s 262 – a deficit of 75, which rose to 88 in a wicketless four over twilight burst.
After Essex had lost their last three first-innings wickets in 40 morning balls, Porter blasted a hole at the top of the Surrey batting order with two wickets in two balls.
The seamer forced Ryan Patel to hand Harmer a regulation catch at second slip with his sixth delivery, before Scott Borthwick tucked off his hip to Feroze Khushi at midwicket.
Will Jacks saw off the hat-trick as he dug out a yorker as he began to work his way towards a well-made 70.
At the other end, Mark Stoneman scored five singles in 65 balls before edging Harmer to Sir Alastair Cook, before Jamie Smith had the top of his off peg knocked down by Porter.
Jacks moved to his seventh first-class fifty in 81 balls. The 21-year-old made batting look uncomplicated, on a sun-kissed pitch best suited to patience, with 12 boundaries struck all around the Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford.
He had been joined by Laurie Evans – who was making his first innings in a decade for Surrey – for a valuable 80-run stand for the fifth wicket.
Evans, on loan from Sussex due to Surrey’s 14-man unavailability list, had played four first-class matches during his first stint at the county between 2005 and 2010 before joining Warwickshire.
He was the aggressor, particularly against Harmer, whom he struck for three perfectly nailed sweeps and a six over long-on.
Both fell either side of tea to spark a second collapse of the innings – Surrey losing three wickets for three runs as Harmer took control.
Jacks pushed Harmer to midwicket before Porter bowled Evans.
Since Harmer arrived at Chelmsford on a Kolpak deal, he and Porter have shared 428 first-class wickets and two County Championships together.
Chopra made amends for his early spills when he clung onto a stunner under the lid to dismiss Gus Atkinson, and then held onto a loopier catch off Rikki Clarke’s bat-pad.
Harmer’s five-for was confirmed when Adam Finch clipped around the corner to Tom Westley.
Essex were frustrated for 10 overs by the last-wicket pair of James Taylor and Amar Virdi, before the former picked out Nick Browne at cow corner.
Browne immediately turned around to stick his pads on for four overs with Alastair Cook – the pair getting through Clarke and Virdi’s overs unscathed.
Earlier, Essex had only added nine runs to their overnight score of 253.
Clarke was the chief tail destroyer as he returned figures of three for 26 – only going for one boundary in his 21 overs.
Handed the new ball at the start of the day, Clarke taught a young Surrey bowling attack how to rip through a tail.
The fresh leather caused extra bounce off a length, which caught Beard out as he edged behind in the third over of the day, before a fuller delivery pinned Sam Cook lbw.
Clarke’s lesson was heeded by debutant Atkinson who wrapped up the innings when Harmer top-edged a pull shot to Patel at cover.