Luke Humphries began his defence of the Interwetten European Darts Grand Prix with an extraordinary deciding-leg victory over Masters champion Chris Dobey in Sindelfingen on Saturday.
Day Two of the £175,000 event saw 16 second round ties take place at the Glaspalast, with top seed Humphries defying a stirring fightback from Dobey to keep his World Cup of Darts dreams alive.
Humphries raced into a seemingly unassailable 5-1 lead before squandering eight match darts, but Dobey was unable to complete a famous comeback, spurning three match darts of his own in a gripping decider.
“I was in so much control, and I’m lucky I’m not walking off this stage absolutely devastated,” admitted Humphries, who must retain the title if he’s to represent England at next month’s World Cup.
“There’s a lot for me to play for this weekend. I’m here to get as much ranking money as I can, and if I can win this title, what comes with it is a bonus.
“There’s a long way to go. There are four games to win, but we all know how good I can be on Finals Day,” added the 28-year-old, who now takes on five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld tomorrow.
Van Barneveld produced a superb showing to advance to the last 16 of a European Tour event for the first time since 2019, courtesy of a whitewash win against UK Open champion Andrew Gilding.
Elsewhere, Gerwyn Price made a winning return to action following his defeat in Thursday’s Premier League final, firing in five maximums en route to a comprehensive 6-2 success against Ricky Evans.
Martin Schindler will await the Welshman in round three, after defying a late rally from his World Cup partner Gabriel Clemens to close out a 6-3 success in their blockbuster all-German showdown.
Nathan Aspinall put Jose de Sousa to the sword with an imperious display of scoring, registering a first nine-dart average of 124 to celebrate a 6-3 victory over the former Grand Slam champion.
World Youth Champion Josh Rock kept his own World Cup of Darts aspirations alive in Sindelfingen, kicking off Saturday’s second round action with a whitewash win over a struggling Keegan Brown.
Rock – who must win this weekend’s title if he’s to represent Northern Ireland at next month’s showpiece – will now meet emerging Dutchman Gian van Veen for a place in the quarter-finals.
Van Veen dumped out his compatriot Danny Noppert to move through to the last 16 of a European Tour event for the first time, producing a magical 170 checkout en route to a landmark 6-4 victory.
Ross Montgomery caused the shock of Saturday’s second round, firing in a 12-dart hold to dump out Austrian Darts Open winner Jonny Clayton in the evening’s penultimate tie.
Last year’s runner-up Rob Cross will play the veteran Scot for a spot in the last eight, after averaging over 97 to dispatch quick-fire Dutchman Martijn Kleermaker 6-2.
Dave Chisnall began his bid for a third European Tour title of 2023 with a 6-2 win over German youngster Pascal Rupprecht, following up a fifth 180 with a brilliant 136 checkout to wrap up victory in style.
Chisnall will lock horns with Krzysztof Ratajski on Sunday afternoon, after Poland’s premier player produced a trio of ton-plus checkouts to dump out Dimitri Van den Bergh, who bowed out with a 103 average.
European Champion Ross Smith produced a sparkling display to seal a whitewash win over Steve Beaton, averaging over a ton and converting six of his eight double attempts to progress to Finals Day.
Smith’s reward is third round clash against Daryl Gurney, who pinned six of his ten darts at double to demolish second seed Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-2 in the afternoon’s finale.
Fourth seed Damon Heta reeled off three straight legs to ease past Adam Smith-Neale and set up a last 16 tussle against Joe Cullen, who landed a 108 checkout to account for Josh Payne in an 11-leg affair.
Elsewhere, Madars Razma punished a below-par display from Ryan Searle to run out a comprehensive 6-1 winner and maintain his hopes of World Matchplay qualification.
Sunday's final day of action in Sindelfingen 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.
2023 Interwetten European Darts Grand Prix
Saturday May 27
Josh Rock 6-0 Keegan Brown
Dave Chisnall 6-2 Pascal Rupprecht
Ross Smith 6-0 Steve Beaton
Madars Razma 6-1 Ryan Searle
Rob Cross 6-2 Martijn Kleermaker
Gian van Veen 6-4 Danny Noppert
Damon Heta 6-3 Adam Smith-Neale
Daryl Gurney 6-2 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Raymond van Barneveld 6-0 Andrew Gilding
Nathan Aspinall 6-3 Jose de Sousa
Luke Humphries 6-5 Chris Dobey
Gerwyn Price 6-2 Ricky Evans
Joe Cullen 6-5 Josh Payne
Martin Schindler 6-3 Gabriel Clemens
Ross Montgomery 6-4 Jonny Clayton
Krzysztof Ratajski 6-5 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Sunday May 28
Afternoon Session (1300 local time, 1200 BST)
Luke Humphries v Raymond van Barneveld
Gian van Veen v Josh Rock
Damon Heta v Joe Cullen
Gerwyn Price v Martin Schindler
Daryl Gurney v Ross Smith
Nathan Aspinall v Madars Razma
Dave Chisnall v Krzysztof Ratajski
Rob Cross v Ross Montgomery
Evening Session (1900 local time, 1800 BST)
Sunday’s games played in Draw Bracket order