MICHAEL Smith was so, so close to taking out the world’s biggest darts tournament on Monday night at a packed house at London’s Alexandra Palace – but it was not to be.

Leading 5-4 and two legs up in the tenth set, a mammoth 1.49m live TV viewers were glued to their screens as the tension mounted.

It had looked very much like those hours of practice on the oche at the St Anne’s Club run by his mum and dad in Sutton had paid off for the 31-year-old.

Alas Smith blinked, allowing the imperious Peter Wright the opportunity to get on a roll to crucially polish off the last three sets and take out the William Hill World Darts Championship for the second time.

It was tough to take for the Clock Face thrower, who had to simply watch from the stage and contemplate what might have been as Wright lifted the prestigious Sid Waddell Trophy and the £500,000 prizemoney.

But after fine victories over some of the world’s best – Jonny Clayton, Gerwyn Price and James Wade – en route to the final, Smith can be mightily proud of his efforts that have had the town transfixed over the festive period.

Smith said: “The bit that has annoyed me was that I let Wright back in to play like that when I was 5-4 up, two legs up and with the darts.

“During the game I just thought stay focused and keep throwing and next time I get a chance, take it.

“It started to get harder. I was trying and never once gave up. And then he just took over at the end.”

Smith is still seeking his first major televised title success – and this is his second defeat in the Ally Pally after losing to Michael van Gerwen 7-3 in 2019.

After joking that the margin of defeat was getting narrower Smith added: “I am getting used to these setbacks but I know I will be back on the dartboard in a couple of days and I am going to fight for it.

“The setbacks allow for a comeback.

“I could have fretted about it years ago – I think Premier League was my first final defeat and then I lost another and another.

“I keep fighting and making the finals. I am always there battling and I played well today but doubles didn’t go in,” he said.

There was consolation in defeat. Apart from a £200,000 runners-up prize, Smith’s performance elevates him up to fifth in the world rankings which should secure him a place in the yet to be announced Premier League line up.

That big arena tournament is due to kick off in Cardiff on February 3, but given the Covid spectator restrictions currently in place in Wales, organisers are currently waiting.

Smith is determined to pick himself up from defeat and will be ready to attack the new year after a short break.

“I’ll go home and go fishing and then get back on the dartboard.

“I am capable of winning anything I put my mind to. I will keep going until the next one,” he said.