Robert Thornton began his unlikely bid for a second Unibet World Grand Prix title in three years with a comeback 2-1 win against Kim Huybrechts in the first round.
The world number 17, who stunned Michael van Gerwen 5-4 in the final in Dublin two years ago as an 80/1 pre-tournament outsider, is only in the field due to 11-time champion Phil Taylor’s decision not to compete in the double-start tournament.
But the Scot is determined to make the most of his reprieve and showed a steely determination to come from a set behind to beat Huybrechts 2-1 in the first round.
The Belgian came into the tournament in good form having reached the final of the HappyBet International Darts Open last weekend, and he raced through the opening set in three straight legs.
However, Thornton fought back after the break, taking the second set 3-1 to level the tie before firing in a 157 checkout to establish a 2-0 lead in the decider.
Huybrechts responded with back-to-back legs to force a deciding leg, but the world number 13 was left waiting on a double as Thornton found tops with his last dart to seal a comeback win.
“I always seem to make it hard for myself in the first round here but I’m delighted to get through,” said Thornton, who has now gone to a deciding set in five of his eight first-round games in the World Grand Prix.
“Kim’s one of the toughest players out there but he missed a few starting doubles and I took my chances.
“I’ve got good memories here and it’s good to be in the second round again.”
Match Statistics: Robert Thornton (78.93), 100+ 14, 140+ 6, 180s 2, Highest checkout 157, 100+ checkouts 1, Checkouts 6/14 (42.86%). Kim Huybrechts (85.82), 100+ 11, 140+ 6, 180s 5, Highest checkout 76, 100+ checkouts 0, Checkouts 6/15 (40.00%).
Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC