RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD marched into the Unibet World Grand Prix quarter-finals with a straight sets defeat of Steve Beaton on Tuesday, as Robert Thornton, Daryl Gurney and John Henderson enjoyed second round wins in Dublin.
Two-time World Grand Prix finalist Van Barneveld followed up his 2-0 win over Kyle Anderson on Sunday with another dominant performance as he raced into the last eight.
Beaton won the opening leg of the first two sets, but let the Dutchman back in on both occasions as Van Barneveld moved clear, winning the opener 3-1 and the second in a deciding leg after two missed doubles from Beaton to level.
Van Barneveld took the third set's opening two legs, and though he missed three match darts to allow Beaton brief respite, an 80 finish sealed the five-time World Champion's last eight spot.
"I was never comfortable but Steve wasn't at his best tonight and I feel like the luckiest guy on the circuit," said Van Barneveld, who now plays Henderson in Thursday's quarter-finals.
"Steve started well but I managed to win the first two sets, which could have easily gone either way. I won and that's what's most important.
"I felt a lot of confidence coming into this tournament and Sunday was good against Kyle Anderson. This game wasn't as good but I won and I'll be practising hard ahead of the quarter-finals."
Henderson reached the Unibet World Grand Prix quarter-finals for a second time by coming from a set down to defeat Alan Norris 3-1 in Dublin.
Henderson had overcome reigning champion and world number one Michael van Gerwen in Sunday's first round, and backed that up with a clinical defeat of Norris.
Somerset's Norris capitalised on an edgy start from the Scot to claim the opening set 3-1, but Henderson settled his nerves with a 96 finish and a 13-darter to lead 2-0 in set two before finishing double 16 to level the tie without reply.
Henderson punished two missed doubles from Norris to lead in set three and then took out 124 on the bull to double his advantage, with Norris hitting back to level only for double 12 to give the Scot a key 2-1 cushion.
Finishes of 60 and double ten moved Henderson clear in set four, before he landed a 180 and tops to seal his quarter-final place, matching the achievement he enjoyed on his debut in the double-start event in 2011.
"To get through a hard game like that is fantastic," said Henderson. "After beating Michael there was a lot of pressure on me tonight but I think I played better tonight.
"Alan missed a lot of doubles to start and you've got to punish these top players for that and luckily I did.
"I believe I'm a far better player than I was in 2011 but other players will say the same so I'll have to play outstanding darts in every round.
"I'm playing steady darts and I'm still in the competition so let's hope I can go all the way. I'm enjoying it - I've not been in a quarter-final here since 2011 and hopefully I can take that one step further."
Van Barneveld is expecting a tough test in Thursday's quarter-finals, and added: "John beat the World Champion and world number one and has had a good run so you can't underestimate him.
"I said to a few people that if the number 32 in the world can beat the World Champion, then how good is he? You can't underestimate players anymore and John has played well."
The other quarter-final from the top half of the draw sees 2015 World Grand Prix champion Robert Thornton taking on Northern Ireland's Daryl Gurney.
Thornton snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as he survived five missed match darts from Dave Chisnall before moving into the quarter-finals with a narrow 3-2 win in a sudden-death leg.
Thornton's bid to claim a second win in three years in the double-start tournament had looked set to end when Chisnall came from a set down to lead 2-1 in the match and then take the lead in the deciding set.
Thornton had produced a superb opening set, hitting back-to-back 14-darters before sealing the set with a 98 finish, before Chisnall took the second set 3-1 with the aid of a 100 checkout of two double tops.
Thornton opened set three with a 123 checkout and also took out 90 on the bull to save the set in leg four, only for Chisnall to claim the decider with a brilliant 130 finish to move 2-1 up in the game.
Thornton took the fourth set 3-1 to send the game all the way, only for Chisnall to move 2-1 up in the final set - but he crucially missed five match darts in leg four.
The Scot scrambled home double ten to keep his hopes alive before punishing four missed opening doubles from Chisnall in the sudden-death leg with tops to seal his last eight spot.
"I'm over the moon," said Thornton. "I thought I threw it away after a great first set but I dug deep and fought back.
"This format is brilliant and for the last couple of weeks I've been practising my doubles and they're the important thing in this event.
"I'm not in as good form as I was two years ago when I won it but it seems to be getting better.
"My first game was scrappy and went to a deciding leg too but the bookies write me off all the time and I've proved I can hold my bottle up there."
Gurney, meanwhile, reached the Unibet World Grand Prix quarter-finals for a second successive year with a 3-1 defeat of Joe Cullen at the Citywest Hotel.
A brilliant display of finishing saw Gurney open up a two-set lead with a flawless six doubles from as many attempts in a superb opening.
The Northern Irish thrower took out 76, a 13-darter and 88 for an 11-darter as he took the opening set 3-1 before finishing 107 and 74 to claim set two in a deciding leg, despite a 116 finish from Cullen.
Cullen swept through set three without reply to fire his challenge and took the lead in set four, but his missed finishing doubles in leg two proved costly as Gurney took out a brilliant 127 on the bull, 72 and tops for victory.
"It feels unbelievable," said Gurney. "Joe's got a great record against me and he came back well in the third set, but the 127 was a big shot.
"I'm in the quarter-finals again but the way I look at it is that it's just the same as round one and I've got to try and get to three sets before the other person."
The second round concludes on Wednesday with the remaining four matches, including world number three Peter Wright up against Mervyn King.
September's Champions League of Darts winner Mensur Suljovic plays Steve West, Gerwyn Price opens up against Benito van de Pas and Simon Whitlock plays newcomer Richard North.
The Unibet World Grand Prix will be broadcast live on Sky Sports and worldwide through the PDC's series of international broadcast partners, as well as at PDCTV-HD for Rest of the World Subscribers.
For tickets, visit www.ticketmaster.ie, call 00353 (0)1 401 0505 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joe Cullen on Twitter
Well... I gave Daryl too many chances .....but in all honesty he deserved the win tonight so well done to him. Big 3 months coming up now ?— Joe Cullen (@rockstar_13_) October 3, 2017
2017 Unibet World Grand Prix
Tuesday October 3
Second Round x4
Dave Chisnall 2-3 Robert Thornton
Daryl Gurney 3-1 Joe Cullen
John Henderson 3-1 Alan Norris
Raymond van Barneveld 3-0 Steve Beaton
Wednesday October 4 (7pm)
Second Round x4
Gerwyn Price v Benito van de Pas
Mensur Suljovic v Steve West
Richard North v Simon Whitlock
Peter Wright v Mervyn King
Second Round: Best of five sets, best of five legs per set. All legs must begin and end with a double, meaning that a player must hit a double before he can begin scoring in each leg.