Raymond van Barneveld sensationally marked his return to professional darts by winning a first PDC ranking title since 2013 on just his third day back on tour in Bolton on Saturday.

Five months on from announcing his intention to return to the sport and just over a week since claiming a PDC Tour Card at Qualifying School, the five-time World Champion defeated Joe Cullen 8-6 in a captivating final at Players Championship 3.

Taking place at the Bolton Whites Hotel, where Van Barneveld famously lifted his first televised PDC title at the 2006 UK Open, the Dutchman took a huge step towards a return to TV stages, including the William Hill World Darts Championship, with the £10,000 winner's prize.

"I can't express how happy I am. Today it all went right, I had the focus I never had for the last two or three years," said Van Barneveld, whose last individual PDC crown came at the 2014 Premier League.

"I was an amateur last week and one week later I'm winning a ProTour, that's what you can do if you believe in yourself.

"I was so focused on winning that Tour Card, then I came here to the Super Series and I thought 'wow, this is another level' and I asked myself 'can I do this again?'

"Yes, of course I can if I believe. It's all about belief. I have to thank my management team who are making sure I practice every single day, which I've never done before in my life.

"When I came here I thought 'this is my place, Bolton has been good to me.

"Joe played amazing in the final, he is a class player and I knew I had to take my chances."

A gripping final between two former postmen began with Cullen hitting a hat-trick of 13-darters to take three of the first four legs.

Van Barneveld, who had won the pair's last four meetings, responded in kind, taking three of the next four, the last of which saw him pin double 16 to level at 4-4 after Cullen wired double top for a 160 checkout.

Cullen - chasing his second title in three days - found the bullseye for a 119 checkout to break throw, but Van Barneveld once again hit back with a stunning 144 checkout to turn the tide.

Both players looked to be feeling the tension as missed doubles crept in, but it was the 53-year-old who held it together best on the outer ring as he tidied up 80 in two darts to go within a leg of the title at 7-6.

A dramatic 14th leg saw Cullen squander seven double attempts to force a last-leg decider, allowing Van Barneveld to eventually find a match-winning double three at the seventh attempt to clinch glory.

Having lost in the first and second rounds respectively on the first two days of Super Series 1, Van Barneveld's day began with a 6-3 win over Poland's Krzysztof Kciuk, and hr then recovered from 5-4 down to defeat world number four Rob Cross 6-5 in round two.

Another last-leg victory over Mervyn King followed, before Van Barneveld dropped just three legs in wins over Darius Labanauskas, his Ally Pally conqueror of 2018, and Alan Soutar to reach the semi-finals.

There, the Dutch legend saw off Ian White 7-3 with his third 100-plus average of the day to advance to the final.

Elsewhere on Day Three, Mensur Suljovic hit the third nine-darter in as many days at Super Series 1, achievenig perfection in round one against Peter Hudson.

In-form Jonny Clayton followed up runs to the final on Thursday and Friday with a quarter-final appearance on Saturday, where Danny Noppert ended the Ladbrokes Masters champion's hopes.

Super Series 1 concludes on Sunday with Players Championship 4 as players return to compete for a further £75,000 in prize money.

Live action will be broadcast across two streams on PDCTV - subscription options include a £1.99 One-Day Pass.

View all results from Players Championship 3 in the Match Centre.

View stats from all matches in DartConnect.

2021 Players Championship 3
Saturday February 27
Last 16

Joe Cullen 6-0 Daryl Gurney
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-4 Devon Petersen
Jonny Clayton 6-3 José de Sousa
Danny Noppert 6-0 Eddie Lovely
Raymond van Barneveld 6-1 Darius Labanauskas
Alan Soutar 6-4 Keane Barry
Glen Durrant 6-4 Peter Wright
Ian White 6-3 James Wade

Quarter-Finals
Joe Cullen 6-2 Krzysztof Ratajski
Danny Noppert 6-4 Jonny Clayton
Raymond van Barneveld 6-2 Alan Soutar
Ian White 6-1 Glen Durrant

Semi-Finals
Joe Cullen 7-3 Danny Noppert
Raymond van Barneveld 7-3 Ian White

Final
Raymond van Barneveld 8-6 Joe Cullen