Rain led to the loss of 63 overs and left Essex frustrated in their push to secure a sixth win of the LV= County Championship campaign as Kent - teetering on 113 for four in their second innings and still 56 in arrears - took the game into its final day.
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Only 34 overs were bowled in the scheduled middle session at Canterbury, just enough for the promotion-chasing visitors to grab four precious wickets including a quickfire haul of three for 24 in 11 overs by discarded England spinner Monty Panesar.
After heavy overnight rain had led to an early lunch at noon and a delayed start at 12.40pm, Kent resumed on their overnight score of eight without loss - that after being dismissed for 107 on day two and made to follow on 169 runs behind.
With the floodlights again in use throughout a murky afternoon, Kent's openers had their concentration shattered by a further brief delay for drizzle and Rob Key became their first casualty soon after.
Key (17), propping forward in defence to Reece Topley, allowed the ball to squeeze through bat and pad and trickle back onto leg stump and make it 36 for one.
Sam Northeast moved to his fifth half-century of the season from 91 balls and with four boundaries, but then Panesar - in only his fourth appearance for Essex since his well-publicised loan move from Sussex - got one to grip and take the shoulder of Daniel Bell-Drummond's bat for a looping catch to gully.
Brendan Nash turned his first delivery into the hands of leg slip to depart without scoring and though Ben Harmison survived the hat-trick ball, he soon departed leg before for eight when playing back and across the line to Panesar.
Drizzle forced the players from the field for an early tea just before 3pm, but the rain strengthened thereafter forcing umpires Jeremy Lloyds and Neil Mallender to abandon play for the day with the loss of a further 47 overs.
Kent will go into the final day with Northeast, looking for his maiden championship century of the summer, unbeaten on 70 and Darren Stevens on eight.