Defending champion Colin Lloyd tonight edged a tense tussle with local favourite Tom Kirby in the opening round of the Skybet World Grand Prix in Dublin.
The man affectionately known as ‘Jaws’ was pushed all the way but held his nerve when it mattered most, securing a 2-1 win.
Lloyd, who clinched the Stan James World Matchplay title with a superb 170 checkout in July, took the first leg with a 146 finish.
But 58-year-old Kirby, who lives down the road from the Citywest Hotel in Maynooth, reeled off the next three legs to clinch the first set.
Lloyd responded with checkouts of 57 and 101 in the second set to level the game, and it looked over as a contest once the 32-year-old had surged into a two-leg lead in the decider.
However, Kirby gave the Irish fans something to cheer when he won the next two legs to put pressure on the world number one.
An upset looked to be on the cards – but Lloyd outscored his opponent in the fifth leg before taking out double top for the match.
“I’ve never had to defend a televised tournament before – I’ve just found out it’s very hard,” said a relieved Lloyd, who will face Wes Newton in the second round.
“He threw some great darts and he really had great support, but I just tried to knuckle down and get on with it.
“There’s a lot more left in the tank – I can play a lot better than that - but it’s just about getting through that first game. I’ve done that now and I’m looking forward to the next round.”
Wayne Mardle eased into the next round with an emphatic 2-0 win over Lionel Sams.
’Hawaii 501’ dropped just one leg during the game as he fired out a warning to his rivals for the title.
“If I’m honest I didn’t feel under pressure,” said the Romford-based thrower.
“I’ve been playing really well and I produced what I thought was good darts when I needed to tonight.
“I can’t express how important it is to get straight off (double-start format) when it’s the best of three sets.
“I was three or four darts ahead in a lot of the legs but that’s not going to happen throughout the tournament.”