Top seed Colin Lloyd produced an astonishing fightback tonight to keep alive his hopes of winning the Ladbrokes.com World Championship at the Circus Tavern in Purfleet.
The 31-year-old from Essex looked beaten when he trailed 3-1 to Chris Mason, who was giving a masterclass of darting prowess, but made a miraculous recovery to edge into the quarter-finals with a 4-3 win.
Mason, who is rebuilding his career after spending more than a year in prison for aggravated burglary, had been in fine form in his two previous victories and after losing the first set he hit another purple patch.
At one stage ’Mase The Ace’ was hitting four out of every five doubles he attempted and the way he was playing would have given 11-time world champion Phil Taylor food for thought.
Lloyd appeared to have given up, tossing away all three darts on one turn at the oche, but Mason has had problems closing out matches before and fate conspired against him again as his opponent gained his second wind.
Gradually ’Jaws’ ate away at the deficit and as the contest reached the deciding set he got ahead and wrapped it up with his second dart at double eight.
“That was hard,” said Lloyd, who set up a mouthwatering last-eight clash with Wayne Mardle.
“I give Chris every bit of respect. He was hitting every double and I threw a few darts in disgust. I just wasn’t there and he was banging it.
“It eats away at you and at 3-1 down I was gone. But he gave me a couple of shots and I was fortunate enough to nip in myself.
“Chris totally deserved to win but you have to hit the doubles. I don’t know how I did it but I got through.”
Mardle had earlier got up off the canvas himself as the player nicknamed ’Hawaii 501’ for his colourful dress sense battled back from 3-1 down to win 4-3 against Paul Williams following an enigmatic display.
“I’m lacking consistency and it’s not good enough,” said the 31-year-old from Dagenham.
Denis Ovens, who remarkably considering his world ranking of number 12 had never reached the quarter-finals of a major tournament, ended that jinx with a 4-2 success against Roland Scholten.
It was a tense encounter, particularly in what proved to be the final leg when both players had difficulty hitting the doubles as the Dutchman tried to take the match to a deciding set.
But ’The Heat’, normally a phlegmatic character, finally closed it out and displayed some rare emotion as he progressed into unknown territory.
“That was a piece of cake,” quipped the 47-year-old from Stevenage.
“To be fair to Roland he missed a lot of doubles early on and I was as nervous as hell, but I settled down. I told myself to relax and play my own game but the tension came in.
“We have had some great tussles in the past but this was my day and I’m happy.”
Fans of the ’Bronzed Adonis’ suffered a double shock as Steve Beaton appeared on stage without his trademark mullet – and then tumbled out of the tournament against Andy ’The Hammer’ Hamilton.
The loss of his flowing locks had a Samson-like effect on the 14th seed for he slumped to a shock 4-2 defeat against the world number 105.
“I felt beautiful up there,” said ’The Hammer’, who had previously ousted Mark Thomson and Mick Manning and now plays Dutch qualifier Josephus Schenk.
’Rocket’ Ronnie Baxter raised his game when it mattered to reach the last 16 with a 4-2 victory over Circus Tavern debutant Terry Jenkins.