TWO-TIME World Championship finalist Simon Whitlock is backing Whitwell-on-the-Hill’s Terry Temple to become one of darts’ top 32 players.

World number six Whitlock admitted he was given an anxious time by Temple before defeating the North Yorkshireman 9-6 in the third round of the UK Open at Bolton’s Reebok Stadium.

The Aussie ace had to rely on two crucial ton-plus finishes – at 7-5 and 8-6 – to eventually end his opponent’s gritty resistance in a match where Temple claimed the highest checkout of 150.

Temple, 50, has signalled his intention to break into the PDC Order of Merit’s top 32, having gone to Bolton placed 73 in the rankings.

He is also determined to play in the World Championships at Alexandra Palace, having previously qualified for the World Masters in 2006.

Whitlock, this year’s Premier League Darts runner-up, reckons both targets are within the grasp of Temple, who defeated world champion Adrian Lewis less than three months ago to reach the quarter-finals of a UK Open qualifier in Barnsley.

“I can see him doing that,” Whitlock said of Temple’s twin ambitions. “He’s up there with the best and he scored well against me.

“It’s very tough when you are trying to make that breakthrough in darts. I always had that dream and I believed in myself.

“That’s what I would say to all the guys like Terry – keep believing and backing yourself.”

Whitlock went on to beat Justin Pipe in the next round before bowing out to Dave Chisnall in the last 16 but, on the challenge Temple gave him, the ‘Wizard of Oz’ added: “I knew Terry would be a very tough man to beat because I’ve played him before and seen him beat Adrian.

“I was feeling the nerves a bit because he was sitting on a double to make it 8-7 and I had to take out 101 to win the match.”

Earlier, several poor visits to the oche had seen Temple fall 3-0 behind without having a single chance at a double.

But the North Yorkshireman did get a leg on the board after Whitlock missed six shots at doubles before Temple eventually closed out in 22 darts.

The Australian hit back with a 13-dart leg despite Temple’s first 180 of the game but, with Whitlock waiting on 32, his opponent took out 40 with his second throw.

Temple then missed one shot at a double to claim a precious break of throw and went 5-2 down.

But undeterred, after poor finishing from Whitlock, Temple checked out with a brilliant treble 20, treble 18, double 18 finish and then took 13 darts to make the score 5-4.

Whitlock, though, broke back straight away and a magical 11-dart leg saw him extend his lead.

Temple then held his nerve to claw the score back to 7-5 with his third dart at 62 before the game’s pivotal moment arrived in the 13th leg.

Having thrown three 140s against the darts, Temple was waiting on 81 to reduce the leg deficit to one but Whitlock threw a 121 bull finish to move just one away from victory.

Temple won the next leg in 16 darts and then threw his second maximum of the match to grab the initiative in the 15th.

But, with Temple sitting on 40 to make it 8-7 and then having the darts to take the game to a final deciding leg, Whitlock took out 101 to get over the finishing line.

Temple was left lamenting his slow start to the match, saying: “I just couldn’t get going in those first four or five legs.

“Maybe I was a bit nervous but, to be honest, I was really up for it before the game and, after that, I was pleased with my game, aside from a couple of missed chances.

“That 121 he took out to go 8-5 up was the killer leg though. I had thrown three 140s and, if I had won that leg, the result could have been different.

“The way he celebrated when it went in, you could see how important he knew it was.”

Temple could have been handed a more favourable last 64 tie than a meeting with Whitlock but did not bemoan his luck, adding: “They are all good players at that stage and it would have done me a lot of good if I had beaten him. It would have made people sit up and take notice.”

Earlier victories in the competition over 2007 UK Open quarter-finalist Steve Hine (4-1) and former World Matchplay quarter-finalist Matt Clark (4-2) had seen Temple produce some high-quality darts.

After walking away with £1,000 in prize money from the Sky Sports-televised event, he said: “It’s been a good experience that will stand me in good stead.”