Michael van Gerwen and Rob Cross went head-to-head for the first time since their epic World Championship semi-final as Premier League Darts kicked off in Dublin, and this time it was the Dutchman who came out on top in a resounding 7-2 success.
Mighty Mike missed six match darts against Cross as his bid for a third world title ended in incredible fashion last month, but in his favoured quickfire format was always in a different gear to his opponent here.
Cross, making his Premier League debut, was outscored from the off as an 11-dart leg from MVG to break throw early in the game helped him race into a 3-0 lead.
The whitewash was avoided as Cross gained his first leg in the competition on double eight, but checkouts of 114 and 88 saw van Gerwen regain his two-leg advantage in double-quick time.
Van Gerwen then produced a second 114 to lead 6-1 and while Cross held throw for the second time, it was a temporary reprieve as last week's Unibet Masters champion reminded everyone why he's favourite for the Premier League.
Simon Whitlock produced some of his best darts in years to beat Mensur Suljovic in the first match of the 2018 Premier League Darts season.
The bearded Australian rattled off four legs in succession from 3-1 down courtesy of clinical finishing to lead 5-3, and found extra to go on and win the match 7-5 after Suljovic had squared things up.
It was a stunning 160 finish from Whitlock which had given him that initial two-leg lead and he once again produced darts of the highest quality when it came to the crunch, against an opponent making his Premier League debut.
Whitlock banged in a trio of 140s against the throw on his way to a 6-5 lead and held firm to get off to a perfect start on his return to the Premier League following a four-year absence.
The hallmark of this encounter was quality finishing, so it was fitting that Whitlock sealed victory by hitting tops at the first attemp, taking his checkout record to seven from eight.
He averaged 106.49 to an impressive debut 103.71 from Suljovic, who hit five of his nine darts at double for good measure and was unfortunate to bump into a player rediscovering his best form.
Smith shocks mentor
If the first match was built on the ruthlessness of both men, the second was anything put as Michael Smith stunned Gary Anderson to win 7-5.
Odds-on favourite Anderson looked set to cruise to an unconvincing win when leading 5-1, but remarkably lost six legs in succession as chance after chance went begging.
Smith was far from impressive on doubles, but took out 72 to edge ahead and hit double 10 with one dart in hand to win the match with a sub-90 average, landing a 5/1 winner for our columnist John Part in the process.
Anderson missed a remarkable 21 darts at double, 10 of them coming in a remarkable ninth leg which went to Smith, who grasped the opportunity to beat an opponent who has been dogged by a back injury of late.
There were no real signs of that troubling Anderson here, as the weakness on doubles which had once threatened to cost him major titles returned.
Dutch delight in 6-6 draw
Daryl Gurney was left to rue what might have been as he played out a 6-6 draw with Raymond van Barneveld.
The Northern Irishman made an ideal start to lead 2-0, but after a ding-dong opening to the match was 3-2 down before leading again at 5-3.
Leg eight appeared likely to prove pivotal, as Gurney threw six perfect darts before six poor ones opened the door for van Barneveld, only for the former world champion to miss two attempts at double and fall two behind.
However, Gurney made a slow start when throwing for the match in leg 11, allowing van Barneveld to level, and he forced a draw when hitting double 20 with one dart in hand in the final leg.
Both players missed opportunities, but it was Gurney who got closest to the finish line without managing to stumble across it.
Statistically, though, the draw was a fair result. Gurney missed 16 darts at double to his opponent's 14, their averages were separated by little more than half a point, with Gurney throwing just one more maximum.
All square in finale
On a night of comebacks, Gerwyn Price salvaged a point in a 6-6 draw with Peter Wright.
Wright won five of the first six legs, but a 116 checkout in the second saw Price spring into life and he went on to force a decider with an 11-dart leg.
Now throwing first, Price nevertheless looked set to spurn his opportunity as a trio of 140s got Wright down to 81, but three more missed match darts to follow one in the previous leg opened the door and Price strode through on double 10.
Results and statistics
Night 1, February 1
- Mensur Suljovic 5-7 Simon Whitlock
- Gary Anderson 5-7 Michael Smith
- Daryl Gurney 6-6 Raymond van Barneveld
- Michael van Gerwen 7-2 Rob Cross
- Peter Wright 6-6 Gerwyn Price
Simon Whitlock 106.49
Mensur Suljovic 103.71
Michael van Gerwen 100.8
Rob Cross 98.85
Raymond van Barneveld 93.78
Gerwyn Price 93.51
Daryl Gurney 93.23
Peter Wright 92.93
Michael Smith 89.12
Gary Anderson 82.46