James Wade kept his World Championship dream alive after staging an incredible comeback to defeat Andy Smith at Alexandra Palace on Monday evening.
Wade moved into the last 16 after recovering from falling three sets behind in a race to four.
The seven-time major winner prevailed in a final set tie-break after Smith had missed two darts to progress.
“I don’t remember a lot about the game,” said Wade, who has reached the semi-finals in each of the last two years.
“At three-nil down I was just thinking about making some kind of game of it and I ended up winning. I never felt I couldn’t win and I don’t know if it was down to luck or pure grit. After he missed his chance, I never looked back.
“It could be anyone’s year. There’s a lot of great players here and whoever wins will deserve it but I’m still in the tournament and I can enjoy Christmas now and worry about the World Championship again after.
“I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas too.”
Smith won the first two sets with the aid of a 161 checkout, while Wade’s highlight of the opening exchanges was a 103 finish.
‘The Machine’ grabbed a break of throw in the first leg of set two, only to be broken straight back, with the next two legs being shared before Smith further increased his advantage when Wade missed a dart at double ten for a 128 finish in the decisive leg.
The Aldershot ace hit his third 180 and took out 62 to move ahead in the third set but missed a dart at tops for a 160 checkout, allowing ‘The Pieman’ to level. Wade took the next two to get a set on the board though.
And the fight-back was in full swing when ‘The Machine’ won the fifth set 3-1, before adding the sixth to level the match, upping his 180 tally to five in the process.
The first three legs of the decisive seventh set went with the throw before Smith missed his big chance, missing two darts at double 16 for the match after Wade had applied the pressure with a 136 set-up.
The three-time semi-finalist pegged tops to force the tie-break, in which he broke his opponent’s throw immediately with a brilliant 122 finish on the bull.
And ‘The Machine’ completed his great escape in sublime style, finishing the job with a classy 100 checkout, using treble 20 followed by two double tops.
Wade will face either Justin Pipe or Devon Petersen on Saturday for a place in the quarter-finals.
By Chris Murphy
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