JUSTIN PIPE had to dig deep to avoid being another big-name casualty at the William Hill World Darts Championship as he overcame qualifier Bernie Smith 4-2 in a deciding set on Wednesday night.
International qualifiers Paul Lim and Kevin Munch have both followed up preliminary round wins by knocking out seeded stars in the first round, and New Zealand's Smith was aiming to follow that lead.
The plasterer from Christchurch had defeated China's Xiao Chen Zong in straight sets earlier in the night, and battled from two sets down to level against Pipe.
Smith then missed two match darts in the deciding set as Pipe forced a tie-break before rescuing his own chances in the tournament as three successive legs moved him into the last 32 against retiring legend Phil Taylor.
"I'm over the moon, honestly," said Pipe. "At two sets up I was cruising and thinking about playing Phil Taylor in his last ever World Championship - but that's no good, you can't think ahead, you have to focus.
"Playing Phil, I'm going to just relax and throw. I'm going to absolutely love playing him in his last ever World Championship.
"I can relax now playing against Phil, I was so tense tonight, all I wanted to do was win and that's what I've done.
"I didn't think I'd go 2-0 up and I just took my foot off the gas, but I won't be doing that on Saturday."
Number 13 seed Michael Smith had a similar struggle to Pipe as, despite hitting the most 180s in a match so far this year with ten, he watched a 2-0 lead against Irish newcomer Steve Lennon disappear.
Smith, however, took control of that final set after Lennon had battled back bravely, closing with a 14-darter as he marched into the second round to face Rob Cross.
"The first two sets I was struggling but I found myself 2-0 up," said Smith. "Then I started to kind of get going and it was two sets all.
"I didn't want to go to that shoot-out again, every year I've been going 2-2 in the last set so I wanted to win it quick.
"Fair play to Steve, he pushed me all the way. That second set when I checked the 150 I thought that would kill him but he came out even better so all credit to him.
"I'm happy with the 180s just not the game, I need to get more consistent for the next round.
"Its a longer format next, I struggled there and still got a 93 average, so when I'm playing well I'll average 100 easily."
Former finalist Simon Whitlock was far from his best as he struggled with illness, but managed to scrap his way to a 3-1 win over Martin Schindler in the first round at Alexandra Palace.
The tenth seed averaged 87.42 and hit five 180s but converted just 11 of his 39 attempts at double as he scratched around for form against the young German.
"I'm pleased and very relieved to get the win because I wasn't at my best," said Whitlock. "That was very ugly, I struggled a lot - I've been sick all week with the 'flu and I just felt tired, weak and hot out there.
"I've got some fire in the belly and that's what got me through in the end. I've seen a lot of good players go out and I did not want to be one of them.
"I'm ranked number ten in the world now I've had a great last 18 months winning five tournaments and playing really good darts. I've been working so hard trying to get back into the top ten and I've got there now.
"Ten's not good enough for me; I want to be back in the top five again - I know I'm good enough."
The first round concludes on Thursday with the remaining four matches, headlined by Peter Wright's tie with Brazilian debutant Diogo Portela, with the number two seed having overcome gallstones to line up at Alexandra Palace.
Spanish pair Cristo Reyes and Toni Alcinas face off, while Belgium's Kim Huybrechts takes on James Richardson and Darren Webster clashes with South Africa's Devon Petersen.
William Hill World Darts Championship
Preliminary & First Rounds
Wednesday December 20
Xiao Chen Zong 0-2 Bernie Smith (P)
Michael Smith 3-2 Steve Lennon
Simon Whitlock 3-1 Martin Schindler
Justin Pipe 3-2 Bernie Smith
Thursday December 21 (7pm)
Cristo Reyes v Toni Alcinas
Kim Huybrechts v James Richardson
Darren Webster v Devon Petersen
Peter Wright v Diogo Portela
Preliminary Round - Best of three sets
First Round - Best of five sets