ST HELENS darter Michael Smith claimed a first PDC title for almost two years and his fourth European Tour triumph as he defeated Mensur Suljovic 6-4 in the final of the 2017 Gibraltar Darts Trophy on Sunday.
Smith, who was playing in his first final since the Austrian Darts Open last June, put in a solid display in the final as he claimed the £25,000 title to follow up his trio of previous wins in 2014 and 2015.
The 26-year-old averaged 96.33 and hit 50% of his attempts at double to overcome battling Austrian ace Suljovic at the Victoria Stadium.
Smith raced into a 3-0 lead, including a 108 checkout, to take immediate control of the match.
Suljovic then produced a spirited fightback to break the throw of Smith twice and level the match, before holding throw to move in to a 4-3 lead.
The Englishman then took out 81 on double 12 to level the contest, and it was the ninth leg that would prove to be decisive.
With Suljovic sat on 56 to hold throw and move within a leg of the title, the 26-year-old produced a breathtaking 132 finish on the bullseye to break the throw and edge 5-4 up.
A miss at tops for the title in leg ten from Smith allowed the Austrian a dart at double 15 on a 110 finish to take the encounter to a decider.
Suljovic’s effort, though, was just inside the wire, allowing Smith to step in and seal the victory on double ten and secure the £25,000 top prize.
"It's a great feeling - I'm so chuffed," said Smith. "I'd forgotten what it felt like to win a tournament and it feels like I've just won my very first tournament again.
"This year I've made two finals and I thought I was going to blow it again. The 132 to go 5-4 up won me the game, it was absolutely huge. I didn't fancy the game going five-all because Mensur is amazing "
Smith had to work hard to book his place in the final, requiring 11th leg deciders in each of his previous four matches in the tournament, starting with Saturday's narrow defeat of Christian Kist.
Sunday's challenge began with a hard-fought win over Dimitri Van den Bergh, with Smith hitting a key 180 in the deciding leg as a 14-darter sealed his quarter-final spot.
In-form Rob Cross waited in the last eight where once again Smith required a last-leg maximum to give him the chance to take out 81 for a spot in the semi-finals.
In-form world number three Peter Wright, a winner of three of the four European Tour events held so far in 2017, was Smith’s semi-final opponent.
Yet again Smith needed a deciding leg, and as with the previous two matches the world number 11 hit a 180 to put himself in control of the final leg before eventually going on to pin double ten for the win.
The next PDC European Tour event will be the HappyBet European Darts Matchplay from June 9-11 at the edel-optics.de Arena in Hamburg, Germany. For tickets, visit www.pdc-europe.tv.
2017 Gibraltar Darts Trophy.
Peter Wright 6-0 Stephen Bunting.
Darren Johnson 6-3 Alan Norris.
Michael Smith 6-5 Dimitri Van den Bergh.
Rob Cross 6-2 Dave Chisnall.
Mensur Suljovic 6-3 Cristo Reyes.
Magnus Caris 6-2 Benito van de Pas.
James Wilson 6-3 Ian White.
Daryl Gurney 6-4 Simon Whitlock.
Peter Wright 6-5 Darren Johnson.
Michael Smith 6-5 Rob Cross.
Mensur Suljovic 6-3 Magnus Caris.
Daryl Gurney 6-3 James Wilson.
Michael Smith 6-5 Peter Wright.
Mensur Suljovic 6-5 Daryl Gurney.
Michael Smith 6-4 Mensur Suljovic.