Phil Taylor overcame a scare against Robbie Green as he moved into the second round of the BetVictor World Matchplay on Monday night, but Raymond van Barneveld was knocked out at the Winter Gardens by a superb Brendan Dolan display.
Legendary star Taylor has won 15 World Matchplay titles since the tournament was introduced in 1994, including seven in a row from 2008-2014, but was made to work hard before securing a 10-8 win.
Green - who secured the final qualifying place in Blackpool at the last Players Championship before the cut-off earlier this month - opened his first World Matchplay appearance in 12 years with a pair of 14-dart legs to lead Taylor 2-0.
The Stoke legend hit back to level before Green landed two 180s in leg five to move 3-2 up only to see the 55-year-old win three in a row to turn the game around.
Missed doubles in successive legs from Taylor, though, allowed Green back in to level at five-all, but finishes of 118 and 70 from the number three seed steadied his nerves before he closed out the win.
“It was tough tonight and Robbie played well but sometimes a good battle like that sets you up for a tournament because you go into the next round ready and feel more prepared for the stage,” said Taylor, who now faces Mensur Suljovic in Wednesday’s second round.
“Robbie came out to win and fair play to him - he believed in himself and hit the finishes, and he put me under pressure. I’d just seen Barney get beaten before I went on stage and then I was 2-0 down and I thought I was going out too, but I got through.
“The more I’m in it the better I’ll get. I love this event and this stage and I get a lot of support, so I’m giving it my best. There’s something about this event.”
Merseyside’s Green said: “I’m quite proud of myself because there’s no shame losing to Phil, he’s the best-ever and he’s still my idol. I love him to bits - I remember standing out in the crowd watching him as a fan, singing his name like everyone else.
“In some legs I really had to dig deep and keep going, he missed and let me in a couple of times and at times I let him off the hook, but I’m made up to have given a good account of myself.”
Northern Ireland’s Dolan put a difficult year behind him as he overcame 2010 World Matchplay finalist van Barneveld 10-7 with a fine display to move through to a second round meeting with Mervyn King on Wednesday.
A tight opening saw the first eight legs shared before Dolan, who had earlier taken out 104, took the game’s first break of throw in a run of three successive legs to open up a 7-4 lead before adding a 105 checkout as he held on for the win.
Dolan has slipped out of the world’s top 20 in the past year, but admitted: “This is an absolutely brilliant result for me and a massive win.
“Raymond is one of the greatest players to ever lift a dart so it’s a great achievement for me. It means a lot because I’ve not had a great 12 months but I can see glimpses of what I’ve been doing in practice up there on stage and it gives me a lot of confidence.
“My finishing held up and I think that’s what won me the game. My double 16 was crucial at times, and it’s fine margins in a game like that so I’m glad to come out on the right side of it.”
Steve Beaton won through to the second round for the first time since 2012 with a 10-6 defeat of Jelle Klaasen, as the number ten seed fell to defeat despite a spirited fightback.
Beaton produced some fine darts to open up an early 4-1 lead, hitting two 180s and a 13-dart finish in the process, only to see his Dutch rival respond to cut the gap to 5-4.
laasen, though, crucially missed two darts to level the game in leg ten before seeing Beaton edge into an 8-4 lead, and though Klaasen finished 81 and 82 to halve the deficit he was unable to prevent his opponent closing out victory with an 11-darter.
“At 4-1 I was going okay but Jelle came back at me like a train, like you know he can,” said Beaton. “To be 6-4 up at the second break meant I had a bit of a cushion and when I got out to 8-4 it was mine to lose after that.
“I’ve been practising well and I’ve picked up my game recently, but I’ve probably never fulfilled myself on TV. Even at 52 I’m still as competitive as the rest and it’s a great buzz, the crowd are brilliant and that’s what you play for.”
Beaton now meets former World Youth Champion Michael Smith, who overcame Simon Whitlock 10-6 with a strong second half of their contest.
Whitlock led three times as he shared the opening six legs, and took out 105 to level at four-all before Smith produced a key run of four successive legs to move 8-4 up.
Whitlock took two of the next three, but an 11-darter from Smith had moved him to the brink of victory before he sealed his second round spot on double five.
“I wasn’t firing on all cylinders but I’ll take the win and I’m through to the next round,” said Smith. “I started off really slow but started to get in to it later on.
I’ve never been too good at the World Matchplay, I think this is only the second time in five years that I’ve made the second round so it’s about that that I turned up. I’m number seven in the world so the minimum should be the last eight but I’ll take it one step at a time.”
The second round of the £450,000 tournament begins on Tuesday, with reigning champion Michael van Gerwen back in action as he takes on Australia’s Kyle Anderson.
Former finalist Adrian Lewis meets Gerwyn Price at the last 16 stage for the second successive year, with the Welshman winning 12 months ago, while World Grand Prix champion Robert Thornton plays Dave Chisnall and number five seed Peter Wright takes on Ian White.