Martin Adams resisted an amazing fightback from fellow 50-year-old Phill Nixon to capture the British Darts Organisation World Championship for the first time with a nervy 7-6 win at Lakeside in Surrey last night.
The duo were the two oldest players in the competition with only three months between them in age, but for most of the final there was a huge gulf as Adams stormed into a 6-0 lead.
But Nixon, a house-husband from Durham, suddenly struck form when only one leg from defeat and reeled off six sets himself to give his opponent serious worries. Adams, the top seed, is renowned for being affected by the jitters with the winning post in sight and despite his huge advantage it happened again.
The Peterborough professional, the "nearly" man of darts for so long, had everything his own way in the first half of the contest.
It looked like being a repeat of Ted Hankey's whitewash of Ronnie Baxter in the 2000 final and when Nixon finally got off the mark it was greeted warmly by the crowd.
However, little did the audience know it would prove the start of an incredible comeback from the man who had qualified for the tournament for the first time in 20 years of trying.
Nixon, who had started the event as a little-known 150-1 rank outsider, clearly gained confidence from winning his first set and quickly went about making the scoreline even more respectable. He did that by getting on a roll, at one point winning eight out of nine legs as "Wolfie" started to feel the pressure of being so close to the BDO's most prestigious crown and the £70,000 first prize.
Adams, beaten 6-2 in the 2005 final by the new Professional Darts Corporation champion Raymond van Barneveld, was swiftly reeled in and, when it went to 6-6, one of the greatest sporting recoveries was very much on the cards. The world No 1 had missed four darts to win the match and looked haunted by the ghosts of previous occasions when he had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
However, just as he had against Mervyn King in the semi-final, Adams gained a new lease of life in the decider and took it without dropping a leg. He won the first against the throw, then capitalised after Nixon had hit single five with his first dart on a 120 checkout to make it 2-0, and finally pinned double top to win.
"It's absolutely fantastic, this means everything to me," Adams said. "It's been a 14-year dream. I've always said if I could get my name on this trophy one time I'd be a very happy man and now I've done it. I will take great pride in looking at all the names on it, going back to the great Leighton Rees in 1978. I've been chasing this trophy and now I've got it."
On the way the match changed, he added: "You try too hard. I could feel my arm tightening up and just told myself to relax and do what I had done in the first six sets."
Nixon, a father of eight, will be heading home to resume his housework duties after collecting £30,000. "I never gave up," said the runner-up. "The dream is over but never mind, there's always next year." Nixon had undertaken a 10-hour journey on buses and trains to get to the venue in Frimley Green but will have the luxury of a lift back to Durham. "I can't wait to go home and see the kids."