Dimitri van den Bergh inspired an epic victory for Belgium in the World Cup of Darts as Netherlands and England both cruised through to round two.
The remaining eight first-round games took place at Frankfurt's Eissporthalle on Friday night and while shocks were in short supply, there was certainly plenty of drama.
Belgium, backed by our darts expert Chris Hammer at 9/2 to win their quarter of the draw, produced an incredible fightback to beat the Republic of Ireland 5-4 in one of the finest first-round matches in the competition's history.
Kim Huybrechts and debutant Dimitri Van den Bergh found themselves trailing 3-0 after a blistering start from Irish pair William O'Connor and Steve Lennon.
Van den Bergh hit a crucial 130 checkout to pull it back to 4-3, and the seventh seeds then struck an 11-dart leg to break throw and take the tie all the way.
A high-quality last leg saw O’Connor fire in a 180, only for Van den Bergh replied with a maximum of his own, before Huybrechts found double 18 with his last dart - after the Irishman had agonisingly missed the bull for a 170 checkout - to set up a meeting with Finland in Saturday’s second round.
"I think it was an all-time classic World Cup game,” said Huybrechts. "Before the draw was made we knew Ireland was one of the teams we wanted to avoid and they gave us a hard game as we knew they would.
"Obviously it’s different for me this year playing with Dimitri but he is one of the best players in the world – a future world star. If we can play to our best level then we’ve got a real chance of doing some damage here."
Sixth seeds Northern Ireland produced a stunning fightback from 4-2 down to beat Poland in a 5-4 thriller.
Polish pair Krzysztof Ratajski and Tytus Kanik more clinical on the doubles than Daryl Gurney and Brendan Dolan as they went within a leg of victory.
However, with the Poles waiting on a finish, Gurney stepped up to take out a 101 under immense pressure to secure Northern Ireland’s place in round two.
Gurney said: "We kept on fighting to stay in the game and it was such a great feeling to take out the 101 at the end. In the last leg I said to myself ‘if Brendan hits a 140 I will take out the 101’ and sure enough that’s what I did.
“In that situation you really don’t want to let down your partner but we got the win, and now we want to play better in the rest of the tournament and go a long way.”
Defending champions Netherlands were ruthless 5-0 winners over Gibraltar as the dream team pairing of Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld showed the minnows no mercy.
The Dutch duo averaged 102.95 compared to their opponents efforts of 66.38 but they will expect a tougher test against South Africa, who beat Hungary 5-3 to reach the last 16 for a second consecutive year.
World Cup stalwart Devon Petersen had debutant Liam O’Brien to thank for a 160 checkout and the all important winning-double to see off Hungarian pair Tamás Alexits and Nándor Bezzeg.
England’s new-look pairing of Rob Cross and Dave Chisnall held off a Czech Republic fightback to record a 5-3 win.
The Englishmen took control of the game as they raced into a 4-1 lead, before Karel Sedláček and Roman Benecky won back-to-back legs to put the pressure on.
However, England struck an impressive 13-dart leg to seal victory and set up a last 16 clash with Singapore.
"I was a bit nervous but it's great to represent my country,” said Cross. "It's weird, I've never played pairs before but it was a decent start and we'll be better for this now that I've had the experience of the stage and won the game.
"I feel really good at the minute and I'm enjoying this so far."
Singapore stole the show in last year’s first round with a famous win over Scotland, and the legendary Paul Lim and partner Harith Lim enjoyed another 5-3 triumph over New Zealand in their opening game of this year’s event.
The Kiwi duo of Cody Harris and Warren Parry started well as they took an early 2-0 lead, before Singapore rattled off the next four legs to go within a leg of victory.
New Zealand pulled another one back, only for Paul Lim to take out 68 to seal Singapore’s place in the last 16 where they will look to replicate last year’s giant-killing exploits against England.
"Nobody likes to lose in the first round so we are delighted to be through,” said Paul Lim. "We love it on that stage and I think we can do even better than we have done the last few years.
"I can’t wait to face England, I’m really looking forward to that match and hopefully we can play the same game we did against Scotland last year and cause another huge shock."
Germany’s exciting young pairing of Max Hopp and Martin Schindler defeated Sweden 5-3 to book their place in Saturday’s action in front of a passionate home crowd.
Sweden’s Daniel Larsson and Dennis Nilsson played their way into a 3-2 lead before Germany rattled off the next three legs in quick succession, including a stunning 126 checkout from Schindler, to set-up a last 16 tie with Northern Ireland.
Finland recorded their first win at a World Cup in five years with an impressive 5-1 win over Greece to book their place in round two.
Marko Kantele and Kim Viljanen produced a solid display to see off the Greek pairing of John Michael and Veniamin Symeonidis, and it was Kantele who sealed their passage into round two with a 112 checkout.
Afternoon Session (1.30pm local time, 12.30pm BST)
TV Coverage: Sky Sports
- Wales v Switzerland
- Australia v Spain
- Japan v Canada
- Scotland v Brazil
Evening Session (7pm local time, 6pm BST)
TV Coverage: Sky Sports
- Belgium v Finland
- England v Singapore
- Northern Ireland v Germany
- Netherlands v South Africa