Glen Durrant progressed to the third round of the William Hill World Darts Championship with a straight sets victory over Diogo Portela on Wednesday, as Lisa Ashton narrowly missed out on becoming the second woman to win at London's Alexandra Palace.
Premier League champion Durrant was far from his best but still claimed a comfortable triumph over Portela, who had seen off World Championship stalwart Steve Beaton 24 hours earlier.
Durrant won the first six legs of the match to take a two-set lead, with Portela missing a dart to win each leg in the second set, before the Brazilian finally got off the mark in set three.
A gutsy 112 checkout to force a last-leg decider in the third set proved to be the highlight for Durrant, as he followed it with a 180 and went on to close out the win.
"I'm chuffed to win but that was a pretty poor performance from me," admitted the three-time Lakeside champion, who has been struggling for form since suffering with coronavirus in October.
"I've come into to this tournament feeling physically and mentally strong. I've practiced hard and have felt really good but I'm disappointed with how I have played.
"This is the first time I've really had a slump in form and I'm hoping to turn it around here and start to play like a Premier League champion again."
Chris Dobey also reached the third round after producing a stunning fightback against Canada's Jeff Smith.
Dobey recovered from losing the first two sets of the match, missing darts to win both of them, before turning on the style to win 3-2.
The Bedlington-based star won the third set 3-2 with the aid of a 116 finish and added checkouts of 98 and 106 to take set four, which he won 3-1 with an average of over 112.
Dobey then raced through the decider, taking out 130 on the bull to win the first leg in 15 darts before 12 and 14 dart legs saw the 30-year-old complete the comeback.
"Jeff hit everything early on but I dug deep and came out the winner," said Dobey.
"I think the PDC Home Tour has made a big difference. It has been fantastic for me in helping me get some decent match practice to get ready for this.
"I've not had the greatest year and I didn't have the greatest start to the match but it came good in the end and there is no better tournament for that to happen than the World Championship."
PDC Women's Series winner Ashton came close to a landmark success but lost out to Adam Hunt in an entertaining encounter that went all the way to a final set.
A bullseye finish to win the deciding leg in the first set saw Ashton threaten to follow in the footsteps of Fallon Sherrock, who made history as the first female player to win on the Alexandra Palace stage last year.
Hunt refused to buckle and won the following two sets before the four-time BDO Women's Champion forced a decider thanks to a sublime 11-dart leg to win the last leg in set four.
Ashton then missed a opportunity to move to the brink of glory when she bust 130 when going for double five to take a 2-1 lead in the final set.
It proved to be her last chance as Hunt capitalised, snatching that leg before completing the win with a cool 120 checkout.
"I'm so happy to have won that," said Hunt, who had lost to Ashton twice in Players Championship matches in 2020.
"I feel like I played well but I had to because Lisa played brilliantly and pressured me all the way. That has given me a lot of confidence to take forward."
Hunt will return on Friday afternoon to face Jamie Hughes in round two.
Max Hopp enjoyed a comfortable victory against Australia's Gordon Mathers, who was beaten by the German talent in straight sets.
Mathers produced eye-catching checkouts of 102 and 139 but was unable to mount a challenge as Hopp cruised to victory, setting up a second round meeting with Mervyn King.
"I had my breakthrough at the World Championship against Mervyn and after an average year maybe I can have a second breakthrough against him," said Hopp, who defeated King in a brilliant match in the 2015 tournament.
"It's a really different experience this year. We usually have lots of German fans attending Ally Pally but I'm sure the enjoyed watching my win on TV."
Ryan Joyce won a thriller against Karel Sedlacek in the afternoon's opening match, defeating the Czech number one in a dramatic last leg decider.
It almost went badly wrong for former Ally Pally quarter-finalist Joyce when he bust his score of 106 with the game tied at two legs apiece in the fifth set but he eventually pinned double seven after his opponent had missed a total of six match-darts, with four of them squandered in the last leg.
"When I bust my score I felt like a lemon," said Joyce, who picked up his first PDC title at the Summer Series earlier this year.
"I'm lucky to have gotten over the line but maybe me coming here as a title winner gives me an extra advantage this year. I think it has changed people's opinions of me. Everyone knows I am capable of beating anyone on my day."
Joyce will take on Polish ace Krzysztof Ratajski in the second round on Monday.
Ross Smith recorded a straight sets success over World Championship debutant David Evans to set up a second round meeting with Grand Slam winner Jose de Sousa.
Smith took out 112 to seal the first set before edging sets two and three in deciding legs to defy a spirited performance by 2020 Challenge Tour Order of Merit winner Evans.
"I was a bit wary of him (Evans) and I didn't really want to play him in the first round to be honest," admitted Smith.
"I'm pleased to be through and looking forward to playing Jose. He's a bit of inspiration to me because of the way he has dedicated himself, put the work in and got some success. It makes me think that if he can do it, so can I."
Callan Rydz reached the second round for the second successive year by overcoming another Australian qualifier in James Bailey.
The 22-year-old signalled his intentions from the off, hitting two maximums in the first leg before taking the opening set 3-0.
Bailey replied in kind as he won the next three legs to level the match, finishing 115 to seal the second set.
Rydz restored order by winning the third set 3-0 and denied his opponent a way back into the match as he wrapped up the victory in four sets, completing the success with an 84 checkout to back up earlier finishes of 116 and 117.
William O'Connor eased past Dutch youngster Niels Zonneveld, who struggled to get going on his World Championship debut and was beaten by three sets to nil.
Ireland's Former World Cup of Darts finalist O'Connor will meet Northern Ireland's Daryl Gurney in round two on Thursday afternoon.
The World Championship continues on Thursday with six first round ties and two second round matches, with Gurney and O'Connor doing battle in the afternoon session before Grand Slam Champion De Sousa enters the action in the evening.
Global coverage of the tournament is headlined on the dedicated Sky Sports Darts channel, while the PDC's international broadcast partners will include RTL7 in the Netherlands, DAZN in various territories, Fox Sports in Australia, Sky Sport in New Zealand, PDCTV for Rest of the World Subscribers and at matchroom.live.
2020/21 William Hill World Darts Championship
Schedule of Play
Wednesday December 16
Afternoon Session (1200 GMT)
3x First Round, 1x Second Round
Ryan Joyce 3-2 Karel Sedlacek (R1)
Ross Smith 3-0 David Evans (R1)
William O’Connor 3-0 Niels Zonneveld (R1)
Chris Dobey 3-2 Jeff Smith (R2)
Evening Session (1800 GMT)
3x First Round, 1x Second Round
Max Hopp 3-0 Gordon Mathers (R1)
Callan Rydz 3-1 James Bailey (R1)
Adam Hunt 3-2 Lisa Ashton (R1)
Glen Durrant 3-0 Diogo Portela (R2)
Best of five sets (no tie-breaks in deciding sets)