Derry’s Daryl Gurney became the first Irish darts player to claim a major PDC title after a sensational 5-4 win over Simon Whitlock at the World Grand Prix in Dublin.
Ranked at world number 12 coming into the tournament, Gurney held his nerve in a drama-filled finale at Citywest to see off his Australian opponent.
Gurney fought back from two sets down to go 3-2 ahead but Whitlock claimed the sixth and seventh to go within one of the title.
However, the Ulster man stayed calm and produced the goods when needed to land the next two sets and the win.
"It’s better than anything else I’ve every felt in my life," he said afterwards.
The victory moves the 31-year-old on to the next level in world darts and he will be a favourite to land a place in the Premier League for 2018.
Gurney hit eight 180s, took out seven 100 plus finishes and recorded a 58% double in rate and a 38.33 out percentage.
He joins a list that includes Phil Taylor, Michael van Gerwen and James Wade in claiming the double-in format major.
The Grand Slam and the World Championships come first for the Irish thrower who jumps up to number six in the rankings.
Gurney raced into a 2-0 lead in the opening set but, after allowing Whitlock to level up, blew nine set darts before his opponent took out double one.
A 156 out-shot against the throw at the start of the second looked to be the spark Gurney needed but the Australian broke back and then held serve for another 3-2 set win.
But Gurney refused to panic in the face of adversary in any of his games to this point.
At various stages of his wins over Adrian Lewis, Joe Cullen, Robbie Thornton and John Henderson, things didn’t go his way, but doubt never set in.
And this attitude was again in evidence as he took out shots of 110 and 126 to claim the third, 3-1 against the throw.
He duly proceeded to equalise, taking the fourth on the same scoreline, coolly finishing off 95 after Whitlock had piled the pressure on with his sixth maximum of the evening.
His resurgence continued in the fifth when he took the lead for the first time. All square in the deciding leg, Whitlock missed three clean darts to go in front again.
Gurney stepped back, allowed the crowd noise to die down and fired his first dead in the middle of the double 16.
And the Northern Ireland international almost stole the sixth as well, missing a dart at double 8 in the deciding leg having fought back from 2-0 down.
Now it was Whitlock’s turn to turn it on. The 2010 World Championship finalist broke against serve in the seventh set, 3-2 once more with Gurney missing a bull to sneak it before the Wizard squeezed in a double 8 with the last dart in hand.
Gurney broke first in the eight but crucially failed to get away first time in the next two sets, it had been a strength all week but suddenly his double-ins were gone.
Somehow Whitlock stuttered and Gurney landed a delayed double 16 with his last having wired the first two to go ahead.
He then took out a 96 in three to square it all up again. The drama was intense in Citywest.
The pendulum swung once more. This time Gurney got away first but Whitlock took out 112 on the bull.
Gurney took out the same score in the next to go within one leg of the £100,000 prize.
Again, Whitlock struggled to find his rhythm and Gurney gunned down double 10 to clinch the victory.
Earlier in the evening William O’Connor qualified for the World Darts Championships after claiming the Tom Kirby Memorial Irish Matchplay title in Dublin.
The 31-year-old Limerick man beat Jason Cullen 6-4.
Hear from William O'Connor as he clinched the Tom Kirby Memorial Irish Matchplay and booked his place at Ally Pally pic.twitter.com/Ecy8Vcb2lB— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) October 8, 2017