TWO-TIME William Hill World Darts Champion Michael van Gerwen began his 2018/19 campaign with a 3-1 win over Alan Tabern on Saturday at London's Alexandra Palace.
Day Three of the £2.5 million event saw a double session featuring six first round ties and two second round matches, but it was world number one Van Gerwen who topped the billing.
The Dutchman regained his composure after an incident during his walk-on - which saw a spectator ejected - to post an impressive 102.59 average.
Van Gerwen missed just three doubles as he raced into a two set lead, before Tabern battled back to 2-1 and then piled the pressure on in the fourth, but the world number one won the deciding leg to quash any possibility of an upset.
"I didn't really know how to react after the incident because nothing like this has ever happened to me before," said Van Gerwen, who will face Max Hopp in round three.
"I got a bit emotional about it at the start but I recovered well and I can't really complain with how I played after that, and I had to be at my best because Alan played a phenomenal game.
"My section of the draw is tough and I will have to beat some great players to win this title but I know if I play well I will do it."
German number one Hopp, starring in his sixth World Championship, secured an impressive straight sets victory over emerging Dutchman Danny Noppert.
Hopp took out 70 in each of the first two legs and went on to take the first set 3-0, punishing Noppert's missed doubles, and that trend continued for the Dutchman despite a brilliant 130 checkout in set two.
German Darts Open champion Hopp continued to capitalise on Noppert's missed double attempts and won the set 3-1, before taking the third set 3-0 to claim an unexpectedly comfortable success.
"I see Danny on a similar level to myself so I was expecting a close encounter, but I think I put a lot of pressure on him by winning the first set," said Hopp.
"Now I can look forward to playing the best player in the world on the biggest stage in the world - what more can I ask for?"
Richard North became the first winner of the day as he produced a miraculous comeback from two sets down to defeat Robert Marijanovic 3-2.
German Superleague champion Marijanovic took the first two sets in a deciding leg, including finishes of 107 and 147, and was denied a dart for the match in set three as North kept his hopes alive.
North then took out 136 as he came from two legs down in set four before winning the decisive fifth set 3-1 to complete the fightback.
Josh Payne tasted victory on the Alexandra Palace stage for the first time with a 3-2 success over former Lakeside Championship finalist Jeff Smith.
The former PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship finalist was taken to a fifth set by Canada's Smith but showed his class in the decider, taking it 3-0.
Smith's fellow Canadian thrower Jim Long enjoyed the opposite outcome, however, as he came from a set down to defeat Mickey Mansell 3-1 on his World Championship debut.
Ryan Searle made light work of fellow debutant Stephen Burton, winning in straight sets, while Spain's Toni Alcinas eased to a 3-0 victory against New Zealand debutant Craig Ross, and Keegan Brown produced an impressive display to defeat Czech Republic thrower Karel Sedlacek 3-0.
The tournament continues over two sessions on Sunday, both featuring three first round matches and one second round match, with the 32 seeded players joining the action in round two - including the start of world number three Peter Wright's bid for a first World Championship title.
Follow all the action with the PDC website - including match reports from all games.
Watch live on the Sky Sports Darts channel in the UK & Ireland, worldwide through the PDC's broadcast partners or through PDCTV-HD for Rest of the World Subscribers.
William Hill World Darts Championship
Saturday December 15
Richard North 3-2 Robert Marijanovic (R1) - REPORT
Jim Long 3-1 Mickey Mansell (R1) - REPORT
Josh Payne 3-2 Jeff Smith (R1) - REPORT
Max Hopp 3-0 Danny Noppert (R2) - REPORT
Sunday December 16
Afternoon Session (1230)
Gabriel Clemens v Aden Kirk (R1)
William O’Connor v Yordi Meeuwisse (R1)
Brendan Dolan v Yuanjun Liu (R1)
Dave Chisnall v Josh Payne (R2)
Evening Session (1900)
Luke Humphries v Adam Hunt (R1)
Matthew Edgar v Darius Labanauskas (R1)
Ross Smith v Paul Lim (R1)
Peter Wright v Toni Alcinas (R2)
Best of five sets. No tie-break in the first round.