Dirk Van Duijvenbode had to survive five match darts in the opening game at the PDC World Darts Championship on Thursday afternoon as he sealed a sensational win against Ross Smith in the last 32 at the Alexandra Palace.
In a game that saw a record 31 180s, the Dutch native got off to the perfect start after he raced into a 1-0 lead following a break of throw that secured the first set with a 3-1 win in legs.
Smith replied by sealing the second set against the darts and it looked like he had found his rhythm after a slow start from the 19th seed.
However, his inability to hit doubles proved crucial in a game between two high scorers.
Van Duijvenbode whitewashed his opponent in the next set to move 2-1 ahead and seemingly take control of this last 32 contest.
The Englishman maintained his up-and-down form throughout as he went from an average of 86.71 in the third set to averaging 123 miday through the next set.
A combination of impressive scoring and double-hitting brought him level once more as he cleaned up 52 in the fourth leg to win 3-1 and enter the break at 2-2.
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The fifth set began with both players hitting 180s with Smith wrapping up the leg in 12 darts to move ahead.
It didn’t take long for Van Duijvenbode to get back on level terms as he took out 68 with the last dart in-hand while Smith was on double tops.
Both players exchanged the third and fourth legs to see the fifth set move into a key deciding leg.
They seemed to buckle under the pressure as Smith missed five darts and Van Duijvenbode missed four darts to win the set before the Briton took the lead in sets for the first time with a nervy D4.
That sparked some tension between the pair with Smith unhappy with Van Duijvenbode’s celebrations after he claimed the opening leg of the next set.
That didn’t lower the outstanding quality on show, however, as the Dutchman made it two legs on the bounce with an impressive 12-dart leg, while Smith broke straight back with a 12-dart leg of his own.
Van Duijvenbode missed D10 to seal the sixth set as Smith took out D16 to move within a leg of victory.
The world number 13 missed two more darts to seal the set and Smith followed that up by hitting 25 when bullseye would have seen him advance to the last 16 for the first time in his career.
Van Duijvenbode returned to take out D4 and send the tight affair into a deciding set.
The home support were right behind Smith, but they couldn’t will three more match darts into the bed as he let more opportunities slip to win the seventh and decisive set.
Van Duijvenbode took out D16 as they found themselves level at 2-2 and heading into sudden death.
While the outcome was the only subject concerning either player, another 180 from Smith, the 30th of the match, meant that it surpassed the previous record of 29 maximums in a best of seven sets clash.
They continued to hold their throws as the set progressed with the pick of the finishes coming in the eight leg as Van Duijvenbode expertly took out 127.
In what felt like a fitting end to an absolute classic, the game entered a final leg shootout with both players tied on 5-5 in legs.
The man known as ‘Smudger’ had a fifth match-dart to win it but he agonisingly missed D5 to give Van Duijvenbode a chance to advance.
The high-scoring powerhouse only needed one dart at D20 to book his place in the next round and come out on top in one of the greatest games on the Alexandra Palace stage.
Van Duijvenbode will now face his fellow countryman Michael van Gerwen in the last 16 following the ‘Green Machine’s’ 4-2 defeat of Mensur Suljovic on Wednesday night.