The fast bowler blitzed through Essex with a five-wicket haul as Sir Alastair Cook fell twice in a day on his return to championship duty.
Former West Indies international Edwards claimed his eighth Championship five-for, ending with figures of five for 51, as his searing pace brought a lifeless Ageas Bowl wicket to life.
Edwards’ battery helped Hampshire bowl Essex out for 164 before they were left 132 for four, still 229 behind Hampshire’s declared first innings score of 525 at close having been asked to follow-on.
During the disappointing day for Essex, Cook managed to start his first-class life after his Test retirement with a half-century but was out in both the morning and evening sessions.
Essex’s seam attack had toiled for just over a day and a half on what looked like a slow pitch, but the Hampshire quartet of Edwards, Kyle Abbott, Keith Barker and Gareth Berg proved there was life in the wicket.
Now the home side will aim to press home their advantage and wrap up the win tomorrow.
Edwards said: ‘All the guys are happy in the dressing room and we are off to a positive start to the season. Hopefully we can finish it off.
‘I always aim to start the season well. I particularly enjoyed hitting the stumps! I feel strong. I’ve gone close to 20 overs and my body is still holding up. I’m 37 now!
‘The yorkers came out pretty good, hopefully they will keep coming out like that.
‘We would be disappointed not to win from this position. After being out in the field for over 100 overs it isn’t easy.
‘I have been through that a lot and it plays with the mind. Sides coming out there fresh and taking early wickets puts you under pressure.
‘We have bowled well, we bowled straight and got a little bit assistance off the pitch here and there.’
Edwards had shown his intentions on the previous evening when he dislodged Nick Browne’s stumps in a shortened session.
But it was Abbott who burst through in the fourth over of the morning session when he bowled Tom Westley around his legs.
Former Test star Cook had ticked the scoring along with the same style which saw him become England’s highest run-scorer of all-time.
He reached a half century, the 65th of his red ball career, from 78 balls, brought up with a powerful pull to the boundary.
But just four balls later he became Abbott’s 150th Championship victim when he fell into Hampshire’s leg-side trap – Cook flicking a straight delivery directly to Vince at short mid-wicket.
Dan Lawrence had batted maturely for 31 but fell to the last ball before lunch when Edwards yorked him.
In the afternoon session, wickets fell with regularity.
Ryan ten Doeschate was perhaps a tad unlucky to be given out lbw to Edwards, but the following delivery Simon Harmer saw his stumps flayed. The full hat-trick delivery was blocked by Jamie Porter.
Porter, along with Ravi Bopara, provided an hour of respite from the wicket taking but became Barker’s first wicket for his new county.
Left armer Barker moved to Hampshire from Warwickshire over the winter and had Porter and then Sam Cook lbw in successive overs.
Edwards returned to the action and ended the Essex innings when he dislodged Matt Quinn’s middle stump – the visitors bowled out for 164, with Adam Wheater unable to bat.
With a first innings deficit of 361, Essex were asked to follow-on and collapsed once again – with three wickets falling inside nine overs.
Barker started the rot again in the third over with the new ball when Browne was leg-before.
The knighted Cook then edged Abbott behind to Lewis McManus – who became the sixth wicket-keeper to don the gloves during the match.
McManus had been drafted in as a substitute fielder after Tom Alsop had damaged his hand while keeping to Edwards in the morning session, with Vince also standing in behind the stumps temporarily.
South African Abbott had Lawrence lbw to leave Essex 27 for three.
Westley and Bopara added 67 to the score before Edwards grabbed his sixth for the match when the former nicked behind.
Bopara, who unbeaten in the first innings, ended the day 60 not out having reached his half century in 57 balls.