Will Jefferson announced his return to action with a storming innings of 51 from only 27 balls as Essex beat Middlesex by three wickets in their Twenty20 Cup clash under the Chelmsford floodlights.
The home side had been set 178 runs for victory but they got off to a terrible start, losing Ronnie Irani and Darren Gough for ducks in the opening over sent down by Chris Silverwood.
However, Jefferson and Mark Pettini lifted the spirits of the home supporters among the 6,000 crowd with a 74-run partnership that spanned just 43 balls before Jefferson found substitute Chris Peploe at deep mid-wicket.
Playing his first game of the season because of injury, Jefferson totally dominated the bowling, striking three huge sixes and six fours to retrieve the initiative for his side.
Ryan ten Doeschate joined Pettini to maintain the momentum with the pair adding 59 in seven overs before Pettini was bowled for 43 to give Johann Louw the first of his three wickets.
The fast bowler struck twice again in his next over to give Essex a few nervous moments and when Andy Bichel was bowled by Scott Styris, 16 runs were still required with only 15 balls and three wickets remaining.
New batsman Andre Adams held his nerve, taking 10 from two deliveries from Louw to level the scores before Ten Doeschate hit the winning run to finish unbeaten on 39 as Essex completed the victory with four balls to spare.
Middlesex had reached their highest score of the competition this summer when reaching 177 for six with useful contributions throughout the order.
Missing a number of their leading players, the visitors gave an opportunity to 17-year-old Billy Godleman who responded with a 25-ball 41, striking six boundaries with power on both sides of the wicket.
It took and accurate throw from Ten Doeschate at cover point to dismiss the teenager in the final over of the innings that ended a flourishing partnership of 72 runs in 27 balls with Ben Scott who finished 32 not out.
Earlier Nick Compton had struck 32 with a number of wristy strokes while there was a useful breezy contribution from Eoin Morgan who collected two fours and a six in one over from Graham Napier. He added 38 in four overs with Styris before both were dismissed to successive deliveries.
The defeat leaves Middlesex without a single point from their six matches while Essex improved their chances of making the quarter-finals with their fourth victory in the South Division.