Michael Smith finally broke his major title duck as he sealed glory at the Grand Slam of Darts.
The 32-year-old had lost his first eight finals, including three this year, but finally got over the line with a classy 16-5 win over Nathan Aspinall in Wolverhampton.
During that run there have been missed darts for titles, late capitulations and heartbreaking World Championship final defeats, but he put all that right as he dismantled Aspinall.
Smith, who ended Raymond van Barneveld’s renaissance at the semi-final stage earlier on Sunday, showed no signs of mental baggage as he dominated the best-of-31 showpiece from the first dart.
He fired nine 180s, finished with an average of 96.84 and won eight successive legs to take him to glory, falling to the floor in relief when he sent home the winning double.
And ‘Bully Boy’ will be hoping that now the monkey is off his back he can go on and win many more titles, including the World Championship that starts in just over three weeks.
He said on Sky Sports: “I don’t know what to do. Nobody can say I’m a bottle job. They can’t take this away from me.”
It was a second major final defeat in six weeks for Aspinall, who was also beaten at the Grand Prix in Leicester in October, and he never got going against Smith.
He will have big regrets about his performance in this final as he could only manage one maximum and missed 12 attempts at doubles.
Smith signalled his intent from the off by breaking Aspinall’s throw in the first leg and never relinquished the lead.
Another break gave him a three-leg lead at 6-3 before a run of eight successive legs ensured that he got his hands on the Eric Bristow Trophy.