Nathan Aspinall survived a match dart before winning the final two sets to complete a dramatic victory over Joe Murnan at the William Hill World Championship on Wednesday.
Day Eight of the £2.5m tournament saw eight further players book their places in the third round, with Joe Cullen and Dirk van Duijvenbode among the other winners at London’s Alexandra Palace.
World number ten Aspinall battled through the pain barrier to progress, refusing to let an arm injury stop him getting the better of Murnan in a five-set thriller.
The world number ten was punished for missing three darts to win the opening set, which Murnan clinched in a decider.
Aspinall hit back to take the second set 3-1 with the help of an enormous 145 finish, only for Murnan to win set three by the same margin.
The Bolton thrower then opened up a two leg lead in the fourth set to move to the brink of victory but missed a dart at tops in leg four and was made to pay as Aspinall forced a deciding set, which he sealed 3-1 with a neat 80 checkout.
“Joe put me under a lot of pressure so I’m so relieved to win that match,” said two-time Ally Pally semi-finalist Aspinall.
“I’ve been struggling with tendonitis and tennis elbow but it was never going to stop me playing. I love this tournament, especially the crowd. They were so good tonight. They helped to get me through that.
“Joe is a fantastic player – he’s beaten me a couple of times on tour this year so I knew I was in for a tough game.
“I’m not happy with how I played but I’ve got the win and that’s the most important thing.”
Cullen overcame Jim Williams in another exciting five-set battle to reach the last 32 of the World Championship for just the third time in his 12 appearances in the sport’s showpiece event.
Williams aced the opening set, taking three straight legs with an average of 100 before his opponent hit back with three unanswered legs to level the contest.
The Welshman regained the advantage by winning the third set 3-1, sealing it with a 119 checkout, only for Cullen to claim the fourth set 3-0 to force a decider.
There, the Yorkshireman held his nerve to taste victory in front of fans at Ally Pally for the first time since 2017 as he landed double four to seal the fifth set 3-1.
“To have the crowd behind me is great and I’m just happy to win to be honest,” said Cullen.
“Jim played well to get in front and I did well to come back. My record here is terrible so to play that well and to win in front of that brilliant crowd means everything to me.
“It was all about getting through until after Christmas and I’ll take it from there. Jim Williams was a tough draw for me but I got through it.
“If I’m honest I think I might have lost that game a few years ago but I’m a little more experienced now and a little more comfortable and that’s why I came back to win.”
Dirk van Duijvenbode won a dramatic duel with Boris Koltsov in a fifth set tie-break to go through to round three.
The explosive Dutchman recovered a 2-1 deficit in a feisty affair, which saw the players miss a combined total of 64 darts at a double.
Russian number one Koltsov looked to be on course to victory when he won the third set 3-1, but Van Duijvenbode managed to force a decider, which went to a tie-break when the score reached 2-2.
Van Duijvenbode held himself together and took out 70 to move to the brink of glory before landing double 19 to wrap up the win.
“It felt a little bit flat but I never thought I was going to lose that match,” said Van Duijvenbode.
“I didn’t play well for long spells of the match but when I needed it, it was there. I’m not happy with the way I played but I am happy with the way I battled.
“I still won and there were some good things in that game.”
Martijn Kleemaker continued his dream World Championship debut with a 3-1 defeat of former finalist Simon Whitlock.
The Dutchman, who had to withdraw from last year’s event after testing positive for Covid-19, will face Cullen in the last 32 after an emphatic win over the 20th seed.
The first two sets were shared before a fabulous 135 checkout kept Whitlock in the third, but that was to be as good as it got for the Australian as Kleermaker won the following four legs to complete victory.
Kim Huybrechts kept Belgian hopes alive with a 3-1 success over Steve Beaton in a scrappy encounter.
Just 24 hours after the shock departure of Belgian number one Dimitri Van den Bergh, Huybrechts recovered from losing the first set to advance to the third round.
Beaton’s 31st World Championship appearance came to an end when he missed a dart at double top to force a deciding set, allowing Huybrechts to pin double 18 to prevail.
Rising star Ryan Searle eased to a straight sets victory, bringing nine-dart hero William Borland back down to earth following his epic first round win.
Borland had delighted the crowd with a historic nine-darter in the deciding leg of his opening victory against Bradley Brooks, but struggled to get going against Searle, who raced through the first set without dropping a leg.
The recent Players Championship Finals runner-up took each of the following two sets in deciding legs to wrap up a comfortable win to progress to the last 32.
Luke Humphries was equally dominant in his second round success against Austria’s Rowby-John Rodriguez.
Two-time World Championship quarter-finalist Humphries was rarely troubled by Rodriguez, who failed to repeat his excellent first round performance over Nick Kenny.
Humphries won three quickfire legs to take the opening set, before winning 3-1 in sets two and three to set up a mouth-watering third round tie with Dave Chisnall.
William O’Connor also enjoyed a 3-0 victory as Glen Durrant’s struggles continued at Ally Pally.
O’Connor dropped just one leg against the former Premier League champion, who has endured a torrid time since that 2020 triumph.
The Irish ace won the last eight legs of the match thanks to some excellent finishing, which began with the tournament’s first 170 in the opening leg of the match.
The second round concludes on Thursday with the final day of action before the three-day Christmas break.
Portuguese ace Jose de Sousa get his campaign underway against Jason Lowe in the afternoon, before former World Champions Rob Cross and Raymond van Barneveld go head-to-head in the evening session.
2021/22 William Hill World Darts Championship
Wednesday December 22
4x Second Round
Ryan Searle 3-0 William Borland (3-0, 3-2, 3-2)
William O’Connor 3-0 Glen Durrant (3-1, 3-0, 3-0)
Luke Humphries 3-0 Rowby-John Rodriguez (3-0, 3-1, 3-1)
Joe Cullen 3-2 Jim Williams (0-3, 3-0, 1-3, 3-0, 3-1)
4x Second Round
Nathan Aspinall 3-2 Joe Murnan (2-3, 3-1, 1-3, 3-2, 3-1)
Dirk van Duijvenbode 3-2 Boris Koltsov (3-2, 0-3, 1-3, 3-1, 4-2)
Kim Huybrechts 3-1 Steve Beaton (1-3, 3-1, 3-1, 3-2)
Martijn Kleermaker 3-1 Simon Whitlock (3-2, 2-3, 3-1, 3-0)
Thursday December 23
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT)
4x Second Round
Damon Heta v Luke Woodhouse
Brendan Dolan v Callan Rydz
Mensur Suljovic v Alan Soutar
Jose de Sousa v Jason Lowe
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
4x Second Round
Danny Noppert v Jason Heaver
Gabriel Clemens v Lewy Williams
Rob Cross v Raymond van Barneveld
Chris Dobey v Rusty-Jake Rodriguez