Liam Dawson and George Bailey enjoyed a vital 56-run partnership as Hampshire and Essex shared the spoils on day two of their Championship clash.
With Essex resuming on 72 for five in reply to Hampshire’s 197 all out, both sides will feel they can still win the game going into day three as the visitors closed on 77 for two - a lead of 20 runs.
Jimmy Adams’ side will feel they conceded too many runs in allowing Essex to reach 254 all out - a first innings lead of 57.
England skipper Alastair Cook (59) was eventually removed by James Tomlinson (three for 40) but Graham Napier (74) and Tim Phillips (40 not out) helped put on 98 runs for the final two wickets.
Things then looked bleak at the start of the Hampshire second innings as Michael Carberry (two) and Adams (nine) fell in quick succession to leave the visitors in real trouble at 21 for two.
But Dawson (31 not out) and Bailey (26 not out) then dug Hampshire out of trouble with some discipline and determination to steal a precious 20-run lead.
While the pitch is becoming easier to bat on, much will depend on the morning session on day three as Hampshire bid to build a lead that will give themselves something to bowl at.
But Danny Briggs who picked up three for 56 in the first innings could yet have a vital role to play in the last innings of a match, which is now finely-poised.