WORCESTERSHIRE skipper Daryl Mitchell's golden run of form continued on the opening day of the LV = County Championship match with Essex at New Road before spinner Saeed Ajmal struck two late blows for the hosts.
The home side were bowled out for 291 but then Saeed dismissed opener Tom Westley and nightwatchman Matt Salisbury as Essex closed on 52-2.
Mitchell went into the game on the back of three centuries in the opening four games of the season, including two in the last match against Glamorgan.
The 30-year-old looked set to add ton number four after hitting a fluent 97 off 128 balls with 17 fours.
Essex paceman Graham Napier then found the leading edge of Mitchell's bat and the ball popped up to Oliver Newby at mid on.
Mitchell has now scored 629 championship runs at an average of 125.80 this season and figured in an opening stand of 117 with Matt Pardoe.
But Essex fought back and restricted second-placed Worcestershire to two batting points.
Worcestershire made two enforced changes from the side which drew with Glamorgan in the last four-day encounter at the Swalec Stadium.
Loan signing Alex Hales, signed as cover for England's Moeen Ali, has returned to Nottinghamshire and was replaced by Tom Fell.
The County's leading wicket-taker Gareth Andrew was ruled out with a back injury and made way for all-rounder Joe Leach who has impressed as seconds skipper this season.
The hosts were given a flying start with a flurry of boundaries by Mitchell and Pardoe against the attack of Newby and Salisbury and the 50 came up in 10 overs.
Mitchell brought up his 50 off 66 balls with 10 fours out of 77-0 with a clip for three through mid-wicket off Newby.
The century stand arrived in the 23rd over with a single by Pardoe off spinner Greg Smith during his first over.
Mitchell and Pardoe extended their partnership to 117 in 27 overs before the latter was adjudged lbw to Smith on 45 shortly before lunch.
Worcestershire reached 132-1 off 32 overs by the interval before Essex fought back in an extended afternoon session when nine wickets fell.
Tom Kohler-Cadmore (9) was adjudged lbw in Jesse Ryder's first over and Fell (0) was bowled by Napier delivery after he tried to play the ball through mid-wicket.
After Mitchell's dismissal, Alexei Kervezee and Ross Whiteley were also positive in their approach as 49 were added in seven overs.
Whiteley lofted Napier over mid-wicket for six as the 200 came up in the 47th over to secure a first bonus point.
The former Derbyshire player made 27 off 17 balls before holing out to Jaik Mickleburgh at cover and then Kervezee (25) fell to a fine catch by skipper James Foster off Newby.
Wicketkeeper Ben Cox and Leach added 52 in 11 overs.
Foster pulled off another excellent catch to end Cox's breezy innings on 38 and give Salisbury a first championship wicket on his debut.
Leach (17) and Saeed (4) were bowled in the same over by Monty Panesar.
Jack Shantry (18 not out) and Charlie Morris (7) added 25 for the final wicket and delayed tea until 5.30pm before the latter was bowled by Ryder.
Essex were left with 21 overs to face and Saeed's introduction at 31-0 after 13 overs brought Worcestershire's double success when first Westley (24) and then Salisbury (1) were adjudged lbw.