Joe Cullen produced a stirring fightback to edge out former Lakeside finalist Jim Williams in a five-set thriller at the World Darts Championship on Wednesday afternoon, recovering from 2-1 adrift to book his place in round three.
Williams, who dumped out World Youth champion Ted Evetts in his opener, converted a clinical 119 combination on tops to establish a 2-1 cushion, but Cullen responded magnificently, posting ton-plus averages in each of the final two sets to prevail with a 96.96 average and eight maximums.
‘The Rockstar’ won six of the final seven legs to set up a clash with Dutchman Martijn Kleermaker, who accounted for 2010 runner-up Simon Whitlock in the evening’s finale, and Cullen revealed he was buoyed by the incredible support he received from the Alexandra Palace faithful.
“To have the crowd behind me is great. I’m just happy to win to be honest. Jim played well to get in front and I did well to come back,” Cullen reflected post-match.
“My record here is terrible so to play that well and to win in front of that brilliant crowd means everything to me. If I’m honest I think I might have lost that game a few years ago but I’m a little more experienced now and a little more comfortable and that’s why I came back to win.”
Cullen also revealed he was taken aback by the crowd’s reaction on the walk-on, as he was serenaded to ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ by the capacity crowd in North London.
“I think the walk-on done me to be fair! They were singing right up until they said ‘game on’ and it affected me, so maybe that is something to work on going forward.
“It may sound cliche but the crowd probably got me through it at the end. When you’re playing okay and then having that lot behind you cheering for you, it’s a nice recipe. I’m more than thankful.”
Elsewhere, tenth seed Nathan Aspinall survived a major scare in his opener against Joe Murnan, surviving a match dart to prevail in a dramatic five-set affair, overcoming an arm injury to triumph with a 93.15 average and eight 180s.
Players Championship Finals runner-up Ryan Searle breezed past William Borland in Wednesday’s opener, with the Scot unable to replicate his nine-dart heroics from round one, while UK Open finalist Luke Humphries also dispatched Rowby-John Rodriguez in straight sets, as he looks ahead to a fascinating third-round clash with Dave Chisnall.
Kim Huybrechts scraped past Steve Beaton in a contest dominated by missed doubles to set up a blockbuster showdown against world No 1 Gerwyn Price, after Dirk van Duijvenbode battled past Boris Koltsov in a compelling clash that went the distance.
However, Glen Durrant’s miserable 2021 campaign drew to a close after he succumbed in straight sets to William O’Connor. ‘The Magpie’ made a flying start to proceedings by producing a 170 finish in the opening leg, and although Durrant started brightly, it slowly unravelled as O’Connor cruised to victory.
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