Kim Huybrechts claimed his first win at the Winter Gardens in thrilling style as he edged past John Henderson 13-12 in their first round clash at the BetVictor World Matchplay.
Huybrechts had suffered six consecutive first round exits on the famous Blackpool stage but broke his duck against Henderson.
The Belgian had to survive a match dart in a dramatic deciding leg before finding double eight to claim victory in a high class contest which saw 13 180s and five ton-plus finishes.
“I am so relieved to finally win a game on this stage,” said Huybrechts, who will face Peter Wright in round two.
Last year’s finalist Wright cruised to a 10-5 victory over Jelle Klaasen in the final game of the evening, hitting a roof-raising 170 finish along the way.
The former UK Open champion struck a 122 checkout to go 3-0 up and found himself in a commanding 4-1 lead heading into the first break.
Klaasen fought his way back to 9-5 but was unable to get close to challenging for the lead as Wright marched into the last 16 for the fourth successive year.
The only former champion remaining in the tournament, James Wade, was made to work hard for a 12-10 win over Jermaine Wattimena in the second tie-break decider of the evening.
With neither player producing their best game, the six-time Winter Gardens finalist was unable to shake off a stubborn Wattimena, who fought back from 9-7 to take the game to a tie-break.
Wade held throw to take an 11-10 lead before landing double 18 to find the match-winning break of throw to set up a round two clash with Simon Whitlock.
“That was a very frustrating game for me, I thought I was going to play a lot better than that,” Wade said.
“I just wanted to go up there and play well and not get involved in a scrap because it’s never nice.
Whitlock secured a convincing 10-2 victory over his close friend and Winter Gardens debutant Richard North.
The Australian flew into a 4-0 lead and, with 36 points separating North from registering his first leg, Whitlock hit a crucial 126 finish to go into the break with a 5-0 lead.
The two-time Blackpool semi-finalist made it 8-0 before North won back-to-back legs, but they proved to be nothing more than consolation legs as Whitlock progressed to round two.