Michael Smith produced a sensational fight back to win his opening game in the Unibet Premier Darts League.
The St Helens ace, who finished bottom of the table in his only other appearance in the competition two years ago, looked dead and buried when he trailed 5-1 to two-times former world champion and close friend, Gary Anderson, in Dublin.
But ‘Bully Boy’ reeled off six straight legs to turn what seemed a potential battering into a 7-5 victory.
He said: “When I qualified for the Premier League in 2016, it took me until the fifth week to get points on the board but I’ve a couple straight away and that makes me happy.
“I can relax a little now because the pressure is off my shoulders.”
Smith added: “I let Gary in early on and he went 5-1 up but then he let me back.
“It’s always a struggle facing Gary because as every one knows we are close friends.”
“I know how great a player he is but I could see him struggling with his well documented back problem. Even so, I had a job to do.”
Scotsman Anderson made the early running as he defied an 11 darter from his rivals by firing in an 108 finish and check outs of 86 and 85 to move to the brink of victory.
But Smith then produced a 114 check out before taking full advantage of the Scot’s inability to close out leg nine despite having 10 chances to do so.
He then rattled in a brace of tops check outs and completed a remarkable transformation by sinking a match-winning double 10.
Smith now faces Irishman Daryl Gurney in the second match on the tournament in Cardiff on Thursday night.