Aspirations of a PDC TV title and in particular the daddy of them all, the World Championships will have to go on hold for now as Stephen fell at the quarter-final stage against Michael Smith

However, it’s a match The Bullet will look back on with regret, left to rue crucial missed double opportunities to run Bullyboy close.

Trailing 4-1, it could easily have been a very different tale of the tape had his 12g mini missiles found their target. But such is the nature of this sport, it’s all about fine margins.

Despite being one set away from Ally Pally eviction, Stephen did mount a strong fightback which made Smith look over his shoulder nervously.

The Liverpudlian pulled what looked like a runaway train back to a drag, closing the recently crowned Grand Slam Champion down to just 4-3 in sets.

But frustratingly for Bunting, he was unable to bring the locomotive to a standstill as Smith grabbed the eighth set and advance.

Afterwards, a somewhat sombre Stephen said: “It’s my own fault really. I scored well but couldn’t convert and that’s what cost me the game.

“Sometimes the doubles go in for and other days they don’t.

“If my finishing was as good as my scoring then I’d have probably got the result.

“But that’s darts. Fair play to Michael, he did what he needed to do and was there to take the chances when I missed.

“Overall, I have to be satisfied with a quarter-final. It’s just hard to swallow at the moment because I had opportunities to go further.

“I’ll refocus on the busy year ahead now and try to push on. I fully believe that TV major is just around the corner.

“Thank you to everyone who supported me, it truly means a lot.”

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