Stephen Bunting and James Wade advanced to the third round of the 2019/20 William Hill World Darts Championship on Wednesday at London’s Alexandra Palace.
Day Six of darts’ biggest event saw Bunting come through a dramatic tie-break with Spain’s Jose Justicia to claim his first win on the Alexandra Palace stage in four years.
Bunting, who reached the quarter-finals in the 2014/15 event before enduring four disappointing World Championship campaigns, eventually shook off a dogged Justicia to end his miserable run in thrilling fashion.
“I’m massively relieved, it was a difficult game because Jose kept battling back,” said former Lakeside Champion Bunting.
“I always felt up for the battle and to win it in the way I did shows I’ve got the guts.
“I haven’t won on this stage in four years and that was at the back of my mind, so it’s good to get rid of that record.
“I truly believe I can win this tournament and now it’s about going out there and showing it.”
Bunting looked on course for victory as he led 2-1 in sets, but Justicia showed great determination to take the match to a final set, and after Bunting took a two-leg lead in the decider, Justicia once again fought back with finishes of 80 and 74 to take the game to a tie-break.
After Bunting didn’t give himself a dart at double on 72, Justicia stepped in to hit double 12 for a break of throw.
With Justicia waiting on 40 for the match in the next leg, Bunting found a crucial bullseye to check out 84 to make it 3-3 in the deciding set.
The pair then exchanged legs before Bunting held throw and then took out 64 in two darts to wrap up an overdue World Championship victory.
Two-time World Championship semi-finalist Wade enjoyed a simpler passage into round three as he saw off Ritchie Edhouse in straight sets.
A typically clinical performance from the nine-time televised title winner saw him miss just five darts at double, never allowing Edhouse a way in to the contest.
“I felt really nervous tonight, I was a bit uncomfortable up there,” said Wade.
“I should’ve been more comfortable but I’m happy to be through.
“I’m happy to be through but I should have a different mindset for the next one.”
Harry Ward produced a miraculous comeback to secure victory on his World Championship debut against Latvia’s Madars Razma.
Ward, a winner of a PDC Players Championship event in May, took the opening set 3-0 but then lost eight successive legs to trail 2-1 in sets and 2-0 in legs in the fourth set.
However, 22-year-old Ward showed great spirit to dig deep and turn the match on its head, winning the last six legs without reply to secure a hard-fought 3-2 win.
Seigo Asada became the second Japanese player through to the second round with an impressive 3-0 demolition of Mickey Mansell.
Asada’s accuracy on the outer ring saw him hit nine of his 13 attempts at double to prevent Northern Irishman Mansell from getting a foothold in the contest.
There were also whitewash wins for Dutchman Ron Meulenkamp and Josh Payne, who proved too strong for New Zealand debutant Ben Robb and Brazil’s Diogo Portela respecitvely.
Germany youngster Nico Kurz missed a dart at double 12 for a nine-dart finish on his World Championship debut as he claimed a convincing 3-1 win over James Wilson.
Kurz defeated Gary Anderson in July’s German Darts Masters and the 22-year-old continued his rise with an eye-catching display on the world stage.
Fellow-German Clemens missed four match darts as he crashed out to Dutchman Benito van de Pas.
Van de Pas was the underdog coming into the contest, but he never allowed Clemens to take the lead in sets before coming back from 2-0 down in the last set to snatch victory.
The William Hill World Championship continues on Thursday with another two sessions as the first round draws to a close in the afternoon, before Gerwyn Price and Dave Chisnall begin their campaigns in the evening.
Day Seven will be broadcast live on the Sky Sports Darts channel and through NOW TV in the UK, on PDCTV-HD for Rest of the World Subscribers and through the PDC’s worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and RTL7.
Wednesday December 18
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT)
3x First Round, 1x Second Round
Ron Meulenkamp 3-0 Ben Robb (First Round)
Seigo Asada 3-0 Mickey Mansell (First Round)
Harry Ward 3-2 Madars Razma (First Round)
Stephen Bunting 3-2 Jose Justicia (Second Round)
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
3x First Round, 1x Second Round
Nico Kurz 3-1 James Wilson (First Round)
Josh Payne 3-0 Diogo Portela (First Round)
Benito van de Pas 3-2 Gabriel Clemens (First Round)
James Wade 3-0 Ritchie Edhouse (Second Round)