Veteran quick Peter Siddle continued his Ashes push with his second five-wicket haul in as many first-class appearances, while Glenn Maxwell faltered on debut for his new county.
Back at Essex after his 37-wicket stint with the club last year propelled him into the Test side, Siddle added two more scalps to his overnight tally of four on Friday's day two against reigning champions Surrey to finish with his best figures for the club.
The 34-year-old's 6-104 saw Surrey bowled out for 395, with Essex reaching 4-202 in reply.
It comes after he capped off his Australian summer with 5-28 in the JLT Sheffield Shield final to lead Victoria to the title last month.
Siddle was the reserve paceman for most of the home summer after returning to international cricket in the UAE in October for a pair of Tests against Pakistan.
The right-armer is hopeful another strong showing during the northern summer could see him back in the mix for the Ashes later this year.
"That's the plan," Siddle told Essex's official website after day one. "They picked me to go to the UAE on dry flat wickets for my performances for Essex last summer.
"If I keep performing here, stay fit, keep bowling well and keep taking wickets, that's all I can do.
"If I don’t get picked (for the Ashes), I don’t picked. As long as I keep the pressure on them (selectors) and keep them under the pump, fingers crossed I'll be on that tour."
Maxwell, playing at Lord's in his first official game for Lancashire, made just one before being bowled by Middlesex paceman Tim Murtagh.
Former England opener Haseeb Hameed stole the show by posting 117 – his first ton in almost three years – to help Lancashire grab a two-run lead at the halfway point of the clash at stumps on day two.
Maxwell earlier sent down 20 overs (returning tidy figures of 1-36), the off-spinner's biggest bowling load in a first-class innings in nearly three years.
Further north, Cameron Bancroft will have the chance to make his mark on English soil after moving to 14 not out at stumps on day two of Durham's clash against Sussex. Batting at No.3, the right-hander earlier in the match made 33 off 159 balls in the hosts' first innings of 224.
Bancroft, who returned from a nine-month Cricket Australia suspension in December, was a contentious choice as Durham captain for the season.
After posting a day-one ton on debut for Glamorgan, Test incumbent Marnus Labuschagne went wicketless from 11 overs of his leg-spin on Friday as Northamptonshire's openers piled on 234 for the loss of no wicket in reply to the hosts' 8-570 declared.
Labuschagne, a replacement at the Welsh county for Shaun Marsh, scored 121 to do his hopes of retaining his Test spot no harm.
"It's the perfect start,” he said. "As an overseas (player), you come over here with a bit of expectation and it was good to focus and stick to my processes. It was great to score a hundred for Glamorgan."
Stuart Broad snared 5-73 off 25.1 overs for Nottinghamshire against Somerset as the paceman tunes up for England's Test season.