I want to remove one of those spaces (so I can 'split()' the line on spaces consistantly)
Seems like your working hard to do something that can be far more easily achieved.
The problem you are trying to fix is when you split on \s. (Here I've substituted _ for spaces to make things clearer.):
Instead of trying to remove the extra spaces, simply accommodate them:
In addition, as splitting on variable amounts of whitespace is such a common thing to do, if you supply split with a single space (' ') in place of the regex argument, it takes care of that (and any leading whitespace) for you:
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