Chris Mason refused to let victory slip from his grasp as he carved out a 3-1 first-round win over ’Muffin Man’ Steve Hine in the Ladbrokes.com World Championship at Purfleet’s Circus Tavern tonight.
The 36-year-old, originally from Bristol but now based in Ireland, has failed to close out matches from strong positions in the past but this time did not buckle in the face of a fine recovery from his opponent.
Hine, who makes muffins for a living, took the first set but 22nd seed Mason then got on top and looked to be cruising at 2-1 up.
But the 36-year-old from Coventry did not give in, battled back into contention and had Mason worried before he finally hit the decisive double.
As the 32 matches in round one were completed the shocks continued, with Alex Roy becoming the 13th seed to fall when beaten 3-2 by debutant Alan Tabern, who was making his debut on television.
It was a closely-fought tussle and the St Helens qualifier edged through by checking out on 76 just when the ’Ace of Herts’ looked poised to step in and seize control.
“I didn’t feel I played that well, but it got me through so I’m happy,” said the 39-year-old, who had to be urged to enter the qualifying event by Gary Welding, conqueror of top seed Colin Lloyd.
“I felt the 76 could be my last three darts so I had to put everything into it. When I stood back and concentrated on doing my best I did all right because I seemed to rush a bit sometimes.
“If it had gone to a tie-break Alex would have had more experience of that situation than me.”
Kevin Painter, runner-up to Phil Taylor two years ago when he took ’The Power’ to a sudden-death leg, denied the Newton brothers a second-round meeting with a 3-1 triumph against Dale, and will now meet elder sibling Wes.
Earlier, ’Diamond’ Dave Askew failed to sparkle as he lost 3-0 to Canada’s Gerry Convery.
Despite starting the match with a maximum score of 180, the 19th seed was always second best against his 50-year-old opponent – who reached the last 16 of last year’s event before bowing out to compatriot John Part.
“I don’t know what happened to Dave but I felt confident up there,” said world number 98 Convery, who will now try to book a flight to Northern Ireland, from where he emigrated, to spend Christmas with his family for the first time in 28 years.
Andy ’Pie Man’ Smith produced a classy performance to crush Colin Monk and secure a meeting with America’s Ray Carver, surprise conqueror last night of Ronnie ’Rocket’ Baxter.
The only Scottish player in the competition, Jamie Harvey, had his hopes of a lengthy run swiftly ended with a 3-0 defeat against Germany’s Tomas Seyler.
’Bravedart’, never the most consistent thrower, could not get into any sort of rhythm and Seyler completed his triumph with a 112 checkout.
Barbados telephone engineer Winston Cadogan battled bravely but was ultimately outclassed 3-0 by Belgian 27th seed Erik Clarys.