MICHAEL Smith won more legs than his opponent on Saturday but bowed out of the World Darts Championship after an epic encounter with Rob Cross, writes Andrew Simpson.

The St Helens thrower missed darts to win the match in the sixth set before his rival demonstrated why he is considered a contender to take the title by landing six maximums in a decider.

Smith threw everything at him, averaging 103 and landing 13 180s of his own on his way to winning 16 legs.

Cross claimed a bare minimum of 12 needed for victory after being whitewashed in each of the sets he lost to the 13th seed.

Smith rattled off the opening set in the blink of an eye, and led 2-0 in the second before his opponents landed a 164 check-out that sparked a brilliant recovery.

Undeterred, the former Saint Cuthbert’s High School student again took the first two legs of the third set before Cross reeled off three on the spin in 13, 14, and 13 darts respectively to move ahead.

Smith’s reply was stunning, and he won six straight legs – including three in the fifth set that needed only 36 darts at an average of 125 – to lead 3-2.

He was left to rue missing a chance to knock out the Hastings ace in a nervy sixth set, and Cross completed victory in style with six 180s – including four in the last two legs – to clinch a last 16 place on his tournament debut.