Darren Webster survived three match darts to beat world number six James Wade 13-11 in a first round thriller at the World Matchplay tonight.
The Norwich thrower battled back from 6-2 down, and at 9-8 adrift he had to rely on Wade missing three match darts before taking out 102 to save the match and force a tie-break, before getting over the line in the 24th leg.
Wade, the 2007 World Matchplay champion and a five-time runner-up at the Winter Gardens, had never failed to reach the quarter-finals or better before last year’s event.
But after losing to Mervyn King in the first round 12 months ago, the sixth seed fell at the first hurdle again this year as Webster continued his recent run of impressive performances on the big stage.
Left-hander Wade, who suffered a surprise first round exit in the US Darts Masters to Canadian qualifier Dawson Murschell last week, looked set to cruise into the second round in Blackpool as he opened up a 6-2 lead, aided by a 121 finish.
Webster would not be deterred by his slow start, though, winning five of the next six legs to level up at 7-7, before an 11-darter put the world number 29 in front again.
The momentum kept swinging back and forth as Wade threw in back-to-back 13 darters, the second of which saw him close out the leg with a 171 followed by double 16, to move 9-8 up, but pivotally the former World Matchplay winner missed three match darts in the next leg.
Webster returned to the oche and took out 102 on tops to save the match and force a tie-break, before it was his turn to miss darts for the match.
After holding throw in leg 19 to edge back in front at 10-9, Webster went low with three darts at double 19 to secure the win, with a reprieved Wade hitting double 10 to make it 10-10.
Webster would make the most of his second chance to dump out the sixth seed, as after winning two of the next three legs he landed tops to complete a memorable 13-11 victory.
“I’m the happiest man in Blackpool – over the moon!” said Webster, who will face Steve West in an unexpected second round tie early next week.
“When I was 6-2 down I had to dig in and I told myself I could do it and I got back into the game. He missed three darts and I took out the 102, and that was a big shot.
“James is the man for winning tight games and I’ve managed to beat him so it means a lot. I’ve played well recently and I’ll be relaxed now in the next game.”
Wade (96.08): 100+ 42, 140+ 18; 180s 2, Highest checkout 121, Checkout percentage 11/20 55% Webster (96.48): 100+ 35, 140+ 21, 180s 5, Highest checkout 102, Checkout percentage 13/32 40.63%