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Darts: Barneveld rides luck

RAYMOND BARNEVELD, the defending title-holder, came within one dart of defeat five times last night before beating fellow former Embassy winner Les Wallace 3-2 in the second round of the world championship at Frimley Green.

Wallace, who won the Embassy title in 1997, led by two sets to one, was level at 2-2 in the vital fourth set and then needed double top to clinch victory. However, the 36-year-old Scot missed double 20, double 10 and double five in turn. Then, given another three darts for victory, Wallace hit a single instead of a double five and after taking a single three fluffed one more chance at double one.

A relieved Barneveld won the leg to level the match at two sets each and secured the fifth set 3-1 against a demoralised Wallace. Barneveld also broke the Embassy record for a five-set match by having 10 180s during a compelling contest in which the Dutchman had five maximums in the first set alone and averaged 40.66 per dart yet still lost the set.

Barneveld admitted: "I was sure I was going out in that fourth set, because double 20 is Les's favourite double and I was getting ready to shake hands.

"I could only pray when he had those five match darts that he would miss. I said to myself `Please God, help me' and a miracle happened. Then I had 25 to win the set and I went nine, double eight and when the double went in I was so relieved.

"But it was an incredible match. I still cannot believe I lost the first set after having five 180s and averaging over 40 a dart."

Results, Digest, page 23