Michael Smith has made an inauspicious start to the Unibet Premier League of Darts.
The St Helens ace, who finished runner-up to world champion Michael van Gerwen in the contest last year, lost 7-3 to Rob Cross in Abderdeen last night (Thursday).
It was his third defeat in five outings and leaves him second from bottom in the table with three points - one more than out-of-sorts Dutchman Raymond van Barneveld.
Smith made an encouraging start against Cross with legs of 14 and 12 darts to earn an early 2-1 advantage but after the Hastings-based player levelled in leg four, a superb 164 checkout to break throw in the fifth turned the game.
Cross then took out 68, 81 and 87 before a missed tops for the match allowed Smith in to finish 90 on the bull, but the former world champion was not to be denied as he posted double three to claim the points.
"I'm really happy," said Cross, who also defeated Smith in Sunday's UK Open semi-finals. "There's a lot more to come but I did a good job today.
"I took my chances well - the 164 settled me down and was a catalyst for me. Michael's a fantastic player and I thought it would be a lot closer, but I'm getting back to my best darts and I'm enjoying it again."
The Premier League continues on Thursday with night six at the Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham, where Smith will face another tough test against contender and last weekend's UK Open winner Nathan Aspinall.
Aspinall is one of nine players the PDC have drafted into the competition after Scot Gary Anderson had to withdraw due to a back problem
Points won by these one-off contenders will not count towards the league table, but their opponents will still retain any points picked up from these matches.
Anderson's withdrawal could also prove a blessing in disguise for his protege Smith as only the player propping up the table - and at this moment in time Van Barneveld is in the wooden spoon spot - will be eliminated when the line-up is reduced to eight after Judgement Night.