Karel Sedlacek defied a magnificent comeback from Joe Cullen to move through to Finals Day at the Gambrinus Czech Darts Open, as reigning champion Luke Humphries made a winning start on his return to Prague.
Day Two of the £175,000 event saw 16 second round ties take place at the PVA Expo on Saturday, and it was home hero Sedlacek who stole the show with a thrilling 6-4 victory against Cullen.
Cullen fought back brilliantly from 5-1 down to threaten a famous fightback in the Czech capital, producing legs of 12, 11 and 11 darts in a blistering three-leg burst to reduce the deficit to 4-5.
He also wired the bullseye for a spectacular 170 checkout to force a decider, before Sedlacek - aided by a 121 checkout in leg two – capitalised to progress despite a 103 average from the Yorkshireman.
The Czech number two will take centre stage in Sunday afternoon’s last 16, where he will take on 2022 runner-up Rob Cross, who averaged 99 and registered four 180s to defeat Latvia’s Madars Razma 6-3.
Elsewhere, Humphries began his defence of the title with a battling 6-4 victory against Ross Smith, defying two ton-plus checkouts from the European Champion to advance.
Top seed Humphries – a three-time finalist on the European Tour in 2023 – now faces Premier League star Dimitri Van den Bergh, who averaged 102 to sweep aside Switzerland’s Stefan Bellmont.
Michael van Gerwen began his bid for back-to-back European Tour titles by producing a superb display of scoring to deny Belgium’s Mike De Decker 6-4.
Van Gerwen averaged over 99 despite missing 14 darts at double, firing in three 180s to set up a blockbuster third round showdown against World Youth Champion Josh Rock.
Rock produced an accomplished display to end the hopes of Host Nation Qualifier Dalibor Smolik in Saturday’s afternoon session, and he will renew his rivalry with Van Gerwen for a quarter-final berth.
Nathan Aspinall produced arguably the performance of the day in Prague, averaging almost 104 to account for Martin Lukeman, a former finalist on the European Tour.
Dave Chisnall also averaged in three figures as he opened his challenge for a third European Tour title of the year with a 6-2 drubbing of Geert Nentjes, landing four maximums en route to sealing his progression.
Chisnall will now face Andrew Gilding for a place in the last eight, after the UK Open champion kicked off Saturday’s second round action with a routine 6-2 victory over Vincent van der Voort.
Peter Wright survived a scare in his opener against Brendan Dolan, battling back from 5-3 down to edge out the Northern Irishman in a decider, thanks in part to a clinical 116 skin-saver in the penultimate leg.
Wright will play Danny Noppert in round three, after the Dutchman fended off a terrific fightback from Jose de Sousa to end a run of five straight defeats against the former Grand Slam champion.
Austrian Darts Open winner Jonny Clayton reeled off six consecutive legs to demolish Martijn Kleermaker 6-1 in Saturday's penultimate fixture, setting up a showdown against fifth seed Dirk van Duijvenbode on Sunday afternoon.
Van Duijvenbode came through a gruelling tie against Belgian veteran Mario Vandenbogaerde, converting a brace of ton-plus checkouts as he snatched victory in a last-leg decider.
Earlier in the day, Ryan Searle fought back from 3-0 down to defeat Steve Beaton, while Damon Heta turned on the style in the latter stages of his clash against Dylan Slevin to complete a 6-2 victory.
Heta’s reward is a third round meeting with Kim Huybrechts, who conjured up a majestic 170 checkout and averaged over a ton to celebrate a convincing 6-3 win over 13th seed Martin Schindler.
Sunday's final day of action in Prague will feature the third round in the afternoon session, ahead of the decisive quarter-finals, semi-finals and final in the evening.
The tournament is being broadcast live on Viaplay, DAZN and PDCTV (excluding Germany, Austria and Switzerland) and through bookmakers' websites worldwide.
Click here for results and match stats.
2023 Gambrinus Czech Darts Open
Saturday May 13
Andrew Gilding 6-2 Vincent van der Voort
Josh Rock 6-3 Dalibor Smolik
Damon Heta 6-2 Dylan Slevin
Ryan Searle 6-4 Steve Beaton
Dave Chisnall 6-2 Geert Nentjes
Kim Huybrechts 6-3 Martin Schindler
Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-5 Mario Vandenbogaerde
Nathan Aspinall 6-4 Martin Lukeman
Danny Noppert 6-4 Jose de Sousa
Rob Cross 6-3 Madars Razma
Peter Wright 6-5 Brendan Dolan
Michael van Gerwen 6-4 Mike De Decker
Karel Sedlacek 6-4 Joe Cullen
Luke Humphries 6-4 Ross Smith
Jonny Clayton 6-1 Martijn Kleermaker
Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-2 Stefan Bellmont
Sunday May 14
Afternoon Session (1300 local time, 1200 BST)
Rob Cross v Karel Sedlacek
Michael van Gerwen v Josh Rock
Nathan Aspinall v Ryan Searle
Dave Chisnall v Andrew Gilding
Dirk van Duijvenbode v Jonny Clayton
Damon Heta v Kim Huybrechts
Danny Noppert v Peter Wright
Luke Humphries v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Evening Session (1900 local time, 1800 BST)
Sunday’s games played in Draw Bracket order as displayed in the third round schedule above