Essex 133 for 5 (Vijay 56, James 3-34) trail Nottinghamshire 177 (Porter 4-50) by 44 runs
M Vijay began to work off his frustration about India's tour of England by making a battling half-century for Essex in his maiden innings in the English county championship.
Vijay reached 50 from 89 balls on a bowlers' day at Trent Bridge, but then became a third victim for Nottinghamshire's Lyndon James, grazing the ball through to wicketkeeper Tom Moores.
Released from India's touring party after playing in the first two Test matches of the current series, Vijay helped Nick Browne add 56 for Essex's first wicket. Mullaney made the breakthrough, nipping one back through the gate to bowl Browne for 24.
Vijay was put down by a diving Duckett when on 43 but the unlucky bowler, James, soon had reasons to be cheerful. Tom Westley became his maiden scalp, with an lbw decision and two balls later Fletcher pulled off a stunning, one-handed leaping catch to remove Dan Lawrence. Within the space of 11 balls Essex had slip from 93 for one to 102 for four as Mullaney got a deserved second wicket, with Bopara clipping to Patel at second slip.
James, a 19-year old former academy graduate on his first-class debut, altered the complexion of the opening day.
The Worksop-born allrounder recovered from the disappointment of only making a single in his maiden innings by snaring three wickets for 34 during his opening spell, to leave the contest on an even keel.
Earlier, Notts had been bowled out for only 177 in 58.1 overs, after winning the toss and opting to bat first. Ben Slater top-scored for the home side with 33 but Essex's three front-line seamers held sway and shared all the wickets to go down.
Things could have been even healthier for the title-holders, who had reduced Notts to 104 for 8 by mid-afternoon, before the lower order plundered a further 73.
Notts had gone into the contest in third spot in the Division One standings, seven points clear of their opponents but having played a game more.
Porter pinned Kraigg Brathwaite lbw for nought from the second ball of the match. The same bowler struck again in the ninth over, bowling a full-length delivery to clip the top of Jake Libby's off stump.
Slater and Ben Duckett added 50 for the third wicket, getting to the milestone in unusual circumstances with 11 runs from just two deliveries. An over from Simon Harmer ended with a five as a Ravi Bopara shy went away for four overthrows. Then Coles started a new over with a no ball that was slashed through the slip cordon by Duckett for four.
Coles exacted revenge later in the same over, having Duckett caught behind for 21. Slater was bowled from around the wicket by Coles and Steven Mullaney nibbled at Quinn and was caught behind as Notts went to lunch on 82 for 5.
The hosts were rocked straight after the interval when Quinn picked up the wickets of Moores and Samit Patel.
Moores moved across his crease and was given out lbw and then Patel nicked into the hands of Simon Harmer at second slip. James edged Coles to slip, the only wicket in the innings to fall from the pavilion end of the ground.
Luke Wood initiated the Nottinghamshire fightback by plundering 27 from 30 balls before being bowled by Porter.
Last wicket pair Luke Fletcher and Mark Footitt frustrated Essex for 16 overs in adding 45 together - with both hitting huge sixes - before Porter ended their fun.