Title-chasing Essex did their best to make up for lost time by picking up four Surrey wickets on a reduced opening day at Chelmsford.
Bad light prevented any play until 14:15 BST, with the visitors opting to bat after winning the toss.
Pace bowler Jamie Porter sent back openers Mark Stoneman (16) and Scott Borthwick (21) in successive overs.
Sam Cook struck twice after tea before the light closed in to end play with Surrey 137-4 and Ben Foakes 31 not out.
Essex face County Championship leaders Somerset in their final game of the season next week and belatedly began play against Surrey, the 2018 champions, with an eight-point deficit to make up.
Surrey included pace bowler Liam Plunkett, for his first Championship appearance since the match between the same two sides at The Oval in April.
But he was not needed on the opening day with skipper Foakes relying on his batting line-up to blunt the Essex attack.
They made decent start before Porter trapped Stoneman lbw and then had Borthwick caught behind by Adam Wheater.
Surrey were 88-2 at tea but lost England's Ollie Pope, lbw to Cook for 23, immediately after the re-start, earning Essex their first bowling point.
Jamie Smith followed in the seamer's next over, but Foakes made a positive start to his innings before gloomy overhead conditions halted play with just 46.3 overs bowled in the day.