ELGIN and District Indoor Bowling Stadium member Mike Stepney was defeated in a last-gasp tie-break by former world champ David Gourlay in the Co-op Funeralcare international open in Blackpool.
Tournament wildcard Stepney, from Burghead, had beaten another multiple world champion in Andy Thomson in the first round on Saturday, a result which could secure his place in the top 16 of the world rankings.
However new world number two and Scotland head coach Gourlay, who defeated Stepney in another wildcard appearance at the Scottish international open in Perth last year, proved to be his nemesis once again.
In a classic match on Tuesday, Stepney got off to a great start and was 6-3 up by the conclusion of the sixth end. However a missed opportunity to increase his lead when he ran his final bowl into the ditch, proved crucial when Gourlay hit back with a double and triple to win the set 9-6.
It was even closer in the second set, Stepney managing a full house of four shots in one end as he built up an 8-5 lead at the end of the seventh. Gourlay then levelled it with a triple at the next and looked on his way to victory until Stepney produced a fine shot in the last end for a single to force the tiebreak.
Gourlay won the first end of extra time, Stepney took the next and it all came down to a tense deciding end. Stepney was holding game when Gourlay saw a great drive take the jack into the ditch. The Scotland coach's final bowl was majestic, landing just a foot off the ditch. Stepney was forced to go for the drive to kill the end and missed by inches, meaning a relieved Gourlay progressed to the quarter-finals.
Stepney now has to wait it out on results from the later rounds to see if his preliminary top 16 place remains or goes.