Nick Gubbins gave Hampshire a sniff of saving their LV= Insurance County Championship fixture with Essex with a technically gifted unbeaten 44.

Hampshire looked on the brink of a fourth defeat of the season, which would have all but ended their title hopes, having given up a 49-run first-innings lead and lost four second-innings wickets before wiping out the deficit.

Jamie Porter was the main architect of the destruction with another three wickets to go with his first innings five for 37, but Gubbins showed a high level of control of a tricky pitch to reach the highest individual score of the match so far.

When the day-ending rain came at tea, he was six runs shy of a fifth half-century of the season and helped his side to a 73-run lead.

Essex lost their four remaining wickets for just 24 runs as the pitch lost its green tinge and became a much slower surface, albeit still favouring the bowlers with turn and invariable bounce coming to the fore.

Adam Rossington was challenged outside his off stump by John Turner to edge behind – the newly England-qualified fast bowler claiming Championship best of three for 23.

Sam Cook was leg-before to Kyle Abbott before Liam Dawson had Jamie Porter caught behind.

Shane Snater had been helped off the field just over 24 hours previous, having damaged his calf while bowling, but bravely reappeared with Michael Pepper as his runner. He lasted just three balls before he was lbw to Dawson.

Essex’s 169 had put them on top in the match before their new ball bowling rammed home their dominance.

Ian Holland was the latest member to get back on the Hampshire opening batter merry-go-round against Nottinghamshire last time out, and took his chance with a sensational 138 not out.

But the frustrating inconsistency at the top of the order, which has seen Felix Organ and Joe Weatherley discarded this season, struck as his first-innings three was joined by a second innings four as Porter had him lbw.

Fletcha Middleton, who has opened throughout the season, only made eight before Sam Cook stung his pads.

Gubbins had top scored for Hampshire in the first innings with 25 and demonstrated great patience, and trust in his exemplary technique, by taking 13 balls to get off the mark.

He put on 34 with James Vince – who suffered a blow to the box when the ball misbehaved – before the captain hoicked to long leg off Paul Walter’s first ball – the tall left-armer picking him up in both innings.

Ben Brown was unconvincing in his edge to gully, Dawson filthy with himself after going back to Harmer and dragging on before Organ was Porter’s eighth victim of the match with another leg-before.

Gubbins, who had an early life when an edge went through second slip, responded to that wicket by crouching onto his haunches and squatting a praying pose with the lead at a nominal 41.

His worship was answered in the form of James Fuller, who joined him in an unbroken 32-run stand which nudged Hampshire towards setting Essex a target of note. However, the visitors remain heavy favourites.