LOCAL HERO Jamie Hughes qualified for the second round of the SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts alongside Raymond van Barneveld, Gerwyn Price and Jeff Smith on Tuesday, as Robert Thornton survived a Nine-Dart Shoot-Out at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall.Tipton's Hughes, the BDO number four who is making his debut in the cross-code tournament at his local venue, produced a superb comeback against James Wilson to edge into the last 16 and continue his memorable week.The 30-year-old had seen his second daughter born last Friday and had won one of his first two group matches in Wolverhampton going into Tuesday's decider with Wilson.Yorkshire's Wilson moved to the brink of qualification when he led 4-2, only to see Hughes hit back to force a deciding leg, which he won with a superb 108 checkout.With 2010 Grand Slam finalist having lost out 5-3 to Dave Chisnall as the 2014 runner-up claimed a consolation win, Hughes ended up topping Group G for a £2,500 bonus as he moved through to the last 16."I'm delighted," said Hughes. "I'm just happy to have qualified, but to finish top is a bonus for me.
"Maybe James Wilson relaxed a bit there when he got to four legs and thought he'd got the job done, but until they hit the last double you have to keep fighting and I did that."Chisnall's earlier defeats to Wilson and Hughes cost him a spot in the second round, and he admitted: "It's nice to finish with a win. I got a bit lucky because James missed a few doubles but I took my chance - maybe if I'd done that in my earlier games I'd still be in."Price snatched dramatic qualification from the group stage with a 5-3 win over Robert Thornton in their decisive Group B clash.After racing into a 2-0 lead, Welsh ace Price saw Thornton hit back to level before the Scot took out 101 to stay in touch at three-all.Price, though, produced a 180 in a 13-darter to regain the lead before landing double ten to complete the victory which secured his place in the knockout phase."It's massive for me," said Price. "I was under pressure through the game but I knew I had to win this game and sometimes it adds a little bit more pressure and makes you perform, and I did that."Robert took out some good checkouts but thankfully I got over the line. It's a great tournament and I'm just enjoying every moment."
That win for Price left Thornton in a Nine-Dart Shoot-Out against Dimitri Van den Bergh, the young Belgian who had won his third group game 5-4 against Scott Waites as the Lakeside Champion exited after three defeats.Former World Grand Prix champion Thornton held his nerve to edge through as he scored 345 to Van den Bergh's 340 in only the fourth Nine-Dart Shoot-Out in ten years of the Grand Slam of Darts, meaning that he now faces reigning champion Michael van Gerwen.Colourful number five seed Peter Wright rounded off his Group C campaign in style with a third successive win as he overcame teenage qualifier Ted Evetts 5-3 to move through.He was joined in progressing by Canada's Jeff Smith, who followed up a 170 checkout in the opening leg of his key clash against Simon Whitlock by finishing 82 on the bull to win the deciding leg for a 5-4 triumph.Smith now moves through to a date with six-time Grand Slam winner Phil Taylor on Wednesday, but he said: "It was do or die for both me and Simon tonight and it was desperation darts all the way through, but I'm ecstatic to win."My game revolves around the doubles, and if they're going in then I'm going to be competitive. Phil's my darting hero and I can't wait to play him, I'm so excited."It's going to be awesome for me but against Phil you're going to have to have the complete package; it's not just doubles but you have to hit a lot of triples too and I'll prepare like I have been and hope for the best."2012 Grand Slam of Darts champion Raymond van Barneveld claimed a third successive group stage win as he knocked out Austrian ace Mensur Suljovic with a 5-3 triumph in their final match.Dutch debutant Danny Noppert, the BDO number three, joined van Barneveld in qualifying from Group F after he completed the group stage with a 5-2 win over Stockport's Nathan Aspinall.The second round of the £400,000 event begins on Wednesday night, with reigning champion van Gerwen up against Thornton, six-time winner Taylor meeting Smith, Wright playing Darryl Fitton and Price up against Brendan Dolan.Thursday's second round games will see PDC World Champion Gary Anderson face Noppert, van Barneveld meet BDO number one Glen Durrant, Hughes face youngster Chris Dobey and emerging Dutchman Benito van de Pas playing Wade.Following the completion of the round-robin phase, van Gerwen remains the 4/6 favourite with Sun Bets, the official betting partner of the SINGHA Beer Grand Slam of Darts.Anderson is the 9/2 second favourite, with Taylor 6/1, Wade and Wright both 16/1 and van Barneveld 20/1, with Durrant rated 33/1 to claim victory in his Grand Slam debut.