STUART Kellett came close to an extraordinary comeback win against Paul Nicholson in the German Championship second round on Saturday.
Trailing 4-0, the Northwich ace recovered to force a deciding leg in Hildesheim before his opponent – victor when the pair met at the World Championships before Christmas – edged to victory.
But Kellett, from Rudheath, missed two darts for the match.
“I was gutted to miss out,” he said afterwards.
“But I can’t keep on playing well for half a game. It’s back to the practice board this week to be ready for the next competition.”
Nicholson dominated the early stages, winning the opening four legs before Kellett hit a 180 and a 100 finish to get off the mark with a 14-dart run.
He took the sixth leg in 15 throws, only for the Australian to post double 18 to move to the brink of victory.
Kellett, 32, fought back further with two sequences of 14 darts before needing only 13 to level at 5-5.
Nicholson appeared to have fluffed his chance when he failed to check out 100, but his Cheshire rival could not punish him and he returned to on tops to win.
“The pressure in the last leg was huge because we both know what one game can do for your season – to get you to the next day and to have you the opportunity to win the tournament,” said the victor.
“I feel for Stuart, because he was probably better in the last four or five legs. But I just managed to grind out a result.”
Kellett, playing in the tournament for the first time, had eased into the last 32 on Friday at the expense of German qualifier Fabian Herz.
He turns his attention now to the first Coral UK Open qualifiers of the calendar year at Robin Park Tennis Centre in Wigan this weekend.
More than 220 entrants will compete in three days of competition, starting on Friday afternoon, as they start their bid to be part of the televised final stages at Butlins Resort in Minehead next month.
Kellett, who climbed to 31 in the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) rankings as a reward for his weekend’s work, is exempt to the last 128.