Two-time champion Gary Anderson crashed out of the PDC World Darts Championship but three-time winner Michael Van Gerwen and last year’s runner-up Michael Smith survived scares.
Anderson, who lifted the trophy in 2015 and 2016, surrendered an early lead to suffer an emphatic 4-1 loss to his former protege Chris Dobey.
Van Gerwen kept himself on course for a fourth title by triumphing 4-2 in a classic encounter with Mensur Suljovic, while Smith overcame a major potential upset by battling back from 3-1 down to defeat Martin Schindler 4-3.
Alan Soutar, Jose De Sousa and Joe Cullen also progressed to the last 16 on a day of drama at Alexandra Palace.
World number 22 Dobey claimed annoying comments from Scotsman Anderson helped fuel his shock comeback win.
“Gary said something to us in the last break and I didn’t like it, so there was no way he was winning that game after that,” Dobey, who will face either Rob Cross or Mervyn King in the next round, told Sky Sports.
“It kind of annoyed us. But I came out, the man I am, I tried to forget about it. He’s a class lad but I didn’t agree with what he said.
“I’m not going to say (what he said), it was just something I didn’t like. He’s one of the big names in darts and he has been for a while, so it’s a massive win.”
Van Gerwen, champion in 2014, 2017 and 2019, was pushed all the way by Austrian Suljovic, who produced a stunning 161 checkout to take the contest to a sixth set.
The Dutch third seed averaged 107.66, including 121.22 in leg two, and threw 12 maximums.
“I had to play really well, I didn’t see Mensur playing this well for a long time,” said Van Gerwen.
“To win it the way I did, it was tense in the game, there were some good darts, amazing.
“It makes you fight harder, it makes you more hungry and this gives you energy. I feel good, I feel comfortable, so I hope I can do some more damage in this World Championship.”
Grand Slam champion Smith, who was beaten by Peter Wright in last year’s final, looked set for an early exit in Wednesday evening’s gripping finale.
German Schindler had never won a match at the tournament before this year but was a leg away from a stunning success before Smith scraped through.
“I just didn’t want to go home,” said Smith. “I just kept telling myself, ‘you’re one of the favourites, you’ve got to play like it’.
“If you want to be a world champion, play like one.”
Unseeded Soutar vowed to keep upsetting the world’s best after winning 12 of the final 13 legs to stun UK Open Champion Danny Noppert.
The Dundee firefighter feared he would “get battered” having fallen two sets down to Dutchman Noppert but battled back to claim a 4-2 victory, which included a superb 130 finish.
“He disappeared in the middle of the match and I took every chance I got,” Soutar, who will take on Germany’s Gabriel Clemens in the last 16, told PDC Darts.
“He’s world number nine, provisionally number eight, and probably a Premier League player, so for me to beat guys like that I love it, I absolutely love going toe-to-toe and taking people on.
“I’m unseeded and I will keep knocking out seeds, let’s try.”
Cullen awaits fourth seed Smith after his 4-0 victory over Australia’s Damon Heta, while Portuguese player De Sousa sparked a day of comebacks in north London by overturning a 3-0 deficit to defeat Ryan Searle 4-3.
Published: 29/12/2022 by Radio NewsHub