James Wade defeated Robert Thornton in what surely was the greatest match in the history of the World Grand Prix, as the pair both hit stunning nine-dart finishes in Dublin on Wednesday.
Wade, who was on the receiving end of the only other perfect leg ever hit in the prestigious double-start tournament three years ago to the day, moved in to the quarter-finals by claiming a three sets to two triumph.
2007 and 2010 winner Wade produced his leg of perfection in the second set, only to see Thornton repeat the astonishing feat soon after.
Thornton had competed in the event despite his mother passing away last week, and had flown back from Scotland on Wednesday afternoon following the funeral earlier in the day – and Wade admitted: “I can only congratulate Robert for what he’s achieved there.
“I’m really happy that I won, but to play Robert in the situation he did was so hard. I got a little bit excited with my nine-darter, and for Robert to do one as well was great.
“There was no nice way to play Robert tonight with what he’s gone through, and for him to do what he’s done shows that there’s nobody with any bigger heart than him.
“I’m just glad to get through because after playing a game like that it doesn’t get any harder. I’ll look forward to playing my next game and not having any emotional attachment to it.”
Finishes of 81 and 130, both of which were completed on the bull, helped ‘The Machine’ take the first set 3-2.
Wade then produced his moment of magic, firing in only the second flawless leg ever seen at the World Grand Prix.
‘The Machine’ doubled his lead in the second set with another spectacular checkout, following his sensational 161 with a brilliant 156.
Thornton fought back, though, to level the match, as finishes of 101, 64 and 12 saw him rattle off three straight legs to take the second set.
The first two legs of set three were shared before an 81 checkout from Wade and a 106 from ‘The Thorn’ forced another decisive leg.
And it was the Scotsman who won it when he followed a 180 with a 71 finish.
Wade went ahead in the fourth set before Thornton produced his perfect leg, executing a 160 start, followed by a 180 and a 161 finish in the same way Wade had done earlier.
‘The Machine’ hit back with a fabulous 146 checkout but Thornton bedded tops to level the set.
The pair exchanged 180s in the decider, in which Wade pegged double ten to restore parity after his opponent had missed four darts for the match.
Wade won the first two legs of the deciding set to move within one of a place in the last eight but Thornton kept his hopes alive, pegging double top after ‘The Machine’ had missed a dart at the same target.
The two-time World Grand Prix champion hit that target in the following leg, however, wrapping up an incredible victory in a history-making match.
Wade will take on Phil Taylor in the quarter-finals on Friday.
By Chris Murphy