Alastair Cook was dismissed for just a single but Essex fought back against promoted Lancashire at Chelmsford as Jesse Ryder’s century and half-centuries from Ravi Bopara and Ryan ten Doeschate rescued the day.
Cook, playing just his third Division Two game this season, fell lbw to England colleague James Anderson to the seventh ball he faced, but thanks to a fine 116 from Ryder Essex, after being put into bat, reached the close on 328 for seven.
After the opening day had been lost to the weather, hosts Essex needed rescue acts from Ryder, Bopara (99), and Ten Doeschate (59), having slumped to 29 for three in the 12th over.
Anderson, meanwhile, would finish with a healthy haul of four wickets from 24 overs, with Glen Chapple chipping in with two of his own for the Red Rose. James Foster and Graham Napier remain not out at the close on eight and nought respectively.
After Cook’s fall in the third over, Tom Westley was caught behind without scoring while Nick Browne edged to Anderson at third slip, both when facing Chapple, now in his 42nd year.
Ryder and Bopara launched a superb recovery that yielded 186 in 50 overs with the New Zealander the main aggressor. His belligerent approach saw him score all his runs in that partnership, as he seized on anything short or over-pitched to deal out punishment.
Ryder cut and drove with such authority he laced his innings, which spanned 138 balls, with 17 fours and 3 sixes. However, he was finally bowled by medium-paceman Tom Bailey when attempting to guide the ball in the direction of third man.
A much more cautious Bopara was within just one run of collecting his first Championship century in 15 months when he succumbed to the second new ball.
Watchful at first, he blossomed to produce some splendid driving on either side of the wicket.
The former England player had gone into the game having passed 50 only twice in the Championship this summer, but such a statistic was hard to believe as he batted with an assurance that had been lacking for most of the season.
Bopara was denied his century when he edged Anderson to wicketkeeper Phil Mustard, his innings having lasted 242 balls and just over five hours, and which had brought him 11 boundaries.
Like Ryder, Ten Doeschate also batted fluently, reaching his half-century with a straight six against Steven Croft.
He also helped himself to six fours in his innings of 59 before driving his 71st delivery into the hands of Chapple at mid-off to give Anderson success shortly after the second new ball had been taken.
That ended a stand of 95 with Bopara, by which stage Essex had moved beyond 300 to claim their third batting point. That was the fifth wicket to fall and one run later, with the total on 311, Bopara also departed, caught behind off Anderson.
Before the close, the impressive Anderson picked up his fourth wicket when he bowled Mark Pettini for eight, the England paceman’s successes coming at a cost of 56 runs.