Robert Thornton came out on top in a remarkable battle with Paul Nicholson at the Alexandra Palace, as their dramatic second round match was decided by a sudden death leg on Friday evening.
The reigning UK Open champion prevailed in a tense dual, in which ‘The Thorn’ hit thirteeen 180s.
The Scotsman had missed half a dozen darts to seal the victory before Nicholson forced a tie break situation, which ‘The Asset’ looked to have taken the advantage in until Thornton took out a spectacular 130 finish on the bull at 4-3 down in the final set.
The next two legs were shared, setting up the sudden death shoot out, where Thornton triumphed to move into the last 16.
“My nerves are shattered and I’m just glad I won,” said Thornton, whose UK Open victory in June was his first PDC major title.
“Me and Paul have had some cracking matches and this was another one.
“It was almost sickening the way he stuck with me. He wouldn’t go away.
“But that’s Paul. He’s one of the best players in the world and I’m very pleased to get through a match like that.”
The first two legs were shared before Nicholson grabbed a break of throw, going on to take the first set 3-1, with both players hitting two 180s.
‘The Asset’ took out 79 to take the lead in the second set but Thornton responded with a brilliant eleven dart leg, before grabbing a break of throw, as he raised his 180 count to four.
Nicholson missed three darts at doubles for the chance to break back immediately, allowing the Scotsman to level the match at one set apiece.
‘The Asset’ kicked off the third set with his third maximum as he broke his opponent’s throw with a neat 65 checkout.
The Australian ace went on to win the set 3-1 before producing a classy 100 finish, with two double tops, to edge ahead in the fourth set.
Thornton’s fifth 180, followed by a 51 out-shot pulled him level but Nicholson produced a fantastic 107 checkout to regain the lead.
‘The Thorn’ hit 180s in each of the next two legs, winning them both, as he took the set in style with a 130 finish.
Thornton punished his opponent by following up that hold with a break of his own before ‘The Asset’ responded in kind with a brilliant 91 finish on the bull.
He then held to force a set decider, which Thornton won with the aid of his ninth 180.
Both players held their throws in the first two legs of the sixth set and Thornton’s tenth maximum, followed by a stunning 136 checkout, gave him a crucial break of throw to send him a leg away from victory.
The Scottish star hit another 180 but missed four match darts, which Nicholson punished with a cool 62 checkout under pressure.
The former Players Champion then pinned double six to set up a deciding set.
Thornton drew first blood by pegging double twelve and he bedded his twelfth 180 in the following leg.
That didn’t stop ‘The Asset’ from restoring parity once again, as he hit double 16 to hold his throw.
But the Australian missed two darts to break, allowing Thornton to edge ahead once more with a classy 82 finish.
Nicholson went off with a 180 in the next leg, before setting up a tie break by taking out 55.
A brilliant 12 darter, completed with a fabulous 124 finish gave Thornton the advantage but he missed a fifth match dart, before Nicholson took out 50 to keep the match alive.
Another clinical 50 checkout earned Nicholson a break of throw to leave himself throwing for the match but Thornton stuck in a brilliant 130 finish in response, with his opponent waiting for a shot at 56.
He then pegged double 18 to move 5-4 ahead and Nicholson forced the first sudden death leg of the tournament, with the help of his seventh 180.
Thornton won the bull and threw first in the decider, kicking off with a 140, which was matched by ‘The Asset’.
Another 140 gave ‘The Thorn’ the edge and he went on to take the victory by bedding double ten, ending an incredible match and setting up a last 16 clash with Phil Taylor or Jerry Hendriks.
By Chris Murphy