Justin Pipe has been labelled “despicable” and ”disgusting” after claims he coughed to wreck his rival’s World Championship dreams.
The world No. 27 was seen on camera clearing his airways as qualifier Bernie Smith was throwing to seal a memorable first-round victory.
It was the fourth leg of the fifth set on Wednesday night at Ally Pally, and the incident seemed to put New Zealand hopeful Smith off his game.
The Christchurch plasterer missed double ten after Pipe appeared to edge closer and cough behind him.
Taunton thrower Pipe, 46, went on to secure a 3-2 win and set up a lucrative last-32 clash with Phil “The Power” Taylor on Saturday.
Respected Sky Sports pundit Wayne Mardle, who was also a five-time world semi-finalist, had his say on the incident, and it's safe to assume he wasn't impressed whatsoever.
He said: “It looks absolutely despicable behaviour by a professional darts player.
"Then he lets out the cough. Any darts player, apart from Justin Pipe, would have turned away to cough. He made no effort to do so.
“That was a tactic for advantage. A tactic to make Bernie miss.
“If that was Phil Taylor doing that, it would be reported on the back page of every newspaper, the front page and middle spread. That was disgusting.”
Smith didn't make much of the incident, telling Stuff he only has himself to blame for missing the chance to win the match.
"It's nothing," he told Stuff. "I missed my double. I had a chance to hit my double and I missed it. That's all I can say about that."
In other matches on the night, Australia's Simon Whitlock held off Germany's Martin Schindler 3-1. 10th seed Whitlock won the first set before debutant Schindler hit back to level at Alexandra Palace.
But, after edging a tight third set, 2010 runner-up Whitlock won the fourth in straight legs, finishing with a 127 checkout on the bullseye.