IT was tense, close – at times gripping – but it didn’t fall the way of Tony Eccles.
The Viper bowed out of the BDO World Darts Championship last night to the number 15 seed Geert de Vos, the Belgian just getting the better of the Hartlepool star in a thrilling match at Lakeside.
This was Eccles’ seventh appearance at the famous Surrey venue but his return to the BDO side of the game will not be met with the champion’s trophy this Sunday.
At one set-up (having won all three legs) and two legs to the good in the second set, though, bookmakers were ready to shorten the odds on Eccles’ chances to win the tournament.
But then came every darts player’s biggest nemesis – a missed double.
This wasn’t any old double, however, it was a double-nine that, if taken, would have moved Eccles into a 2-0 lead against his Belgian opponent.
Instead Eccles spun his arrow wide and de Vos punished the West View ace for his missed arrows by winning the next three legs to tie proceedings at 1-1.
The 2012 German Open winner de Vos then moved in front in the third set, winning three legs to Eccles’ one.
Eccles was not to be distracted from his aim in reaching the last-16, though. Back he came, trouncing de Vos in the fourth set by successfully whittling his way down from 501 the quickest in all three legs to make it 2-2 in sets, finishing in style with a 20 and a double-top brace.
The preceding sets had already conveyed to the captivated audience that this was a game that could swing either way and the ensuing fifth set followed along the same path.
Tied at 2-2 in legs, it was anyone’s match.
In the end it was de Vos’ game, a checkout of a bullseye eliminating the 2007 quarter-finalist at the first stage.
Eccles was gracious in defeat, telling SportMail: “He played better than me.
“I am disappointed, yes, but he played really well.
“I didn’t disappoint myself, I haven’t played good darts for three years but tonight I did.
“That double-nine though... I thought it was in, it knackered me that.
“But I enjoyed myself out there and that’s the first time I have in a long, long time.”
With Paul Jennings still in the competition, Eccles wished his fellow Poolie well: “I was supporting Paul and he played well out there.
“I hope he goes as far as he can.”
Later in the evening, England’s Scott Waites eased through to the second round with a 3-0 win over Willy Van de Wiel, from the Netherlands.
In the women’s quarter-final, former Lakeside world champion Trina Gulliver eased past Julie Gore, from Wales, thanks to a 2-0 victory.