COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP DIVISION ONE, Chelmsford:
CLOSE, DAY ONE: Essex 248-9 v Durham
Durham 3pts, Essex 1pt
Mickleburgh's 72 was his third first-class half-century of the summer
Jaik Mickleburgh impressed with 72 to help relegation-threatened Essex reach 248-9 on day one of their must-win County Championship clash with Durham.
Essex went into the game knowing that only victory would give them an outside chance of avoiding relegation back to Division Two after one season.
They were dealt a blow when they lost England opener Alastair Cook for 33, but Mickleburgh gave them a platform.
James Foster also made 42 as Essex closed two shy of a second bonus point.
Even victory may not keep Essex up, and their selection suggested they have already accepted their fate as leading wicket-taker David Masters was rested ahead of Saturday's CB 40 semi-final at Somerset.
They soon lost Billy Godleman, but Cook and Mickleburgh made steady progress until the England opener pulled Plunkett into the hands of Mitch Claydon at square leg.
Matt Walker then added 74 for the third wicket with Mickleburgh, who had scored 174 against Durham earlier in the season, before turning Ian Blackwell into the hands of Mark Stoneman at leg-slip.
Mickleburgh, who hit 10 boundaries, survived a scare on 59 when Durham wicketkeeper Phil Mustard put him down off Ben Harmison at full stretch.
But once he straight drove Scott Borthwick to Dale Benkenstein at mid-off, Essex were grateful to Foster for passing 20 for the first time in eight Championship innings as they picked up their first batting point in four games.