Wayne Mardle fought back from a set down to see off the challenge of the American Ray Carver on the opening night of the PDC World Championship on Monday.
Carver threw seven maximums in the match, including one in the deciding leg of the opening set, which he won. Mardle then raced into the lead before Carver, the world No 51, levelled at 2-2. But the English world No 9, three times a semi-finalist in the tournament, sealed the final set with a double six to claim a hard-fought 3-2 victory.
"I'm over the moon to get through that game," Mardle said. "I've been playing great on the circuit this year but been atrocious in the TV events. I want to change that and believe I can win this."
Earlier, the world No 30 Mark Walsh won by the same margin against his fellow Englishman Adrian Gray, who is ranked three places below him.
Walsh raced into a 2-0 lead and appeared on course to cruise into the second round before Gray edged the third and found top form to level the match. But Walsh completed checkouts of 97 and 110 in the final set as he clinched victory.
St Helens player Alan Tabern had the honour of claiming the tournament's opening win as he saw off Danish qualifier Per Laursen 3-1.
Tabern, the world No 18 who fought through to the quarter-finals last year, was pegged back after taking the opening set but eventually came through at a canter.
"I wasn't too happy because I can play much better than that," Tabern said afterwards. "I'm waiting for the day that I take my performances from the floor tournaments on to the stage.
"I was hoping for a good performance but getting through is the main thing and I would have taken that before I came."
In Monday's final match, Colin Lloyd lost an epic encounter 3-2 to Jan van der Rassel. Lloyd, the world No 12, battled into a 2-1 lead and his Dutch opponent, ranked 63 in the world, appeared in trouble when the Englishman threw to claim the match but he missed what would have been a match-winning bullseye.
Van der Rassel took advantage of that let-off to force a decider in what was a scrappy encounter and, after the first three legs went with the throw, he missed a double eight that would have clinched victory.
Lloyd levelled at 2-2 in the fifth set before Van der Rassel, who had won on his own throw to edge ahead, missed three doubles in a row to allow the favourite to get back on terms once more.
But it proved to be a temporary reprieve for Lloyd as the Dutchman vanquished his out-of-sorts opponent, winning the deciding set 6-4.
PDC World Darts Championship (Alexandra Palace, London) Monday's late results: First round: A Tabern (Eng) bt P Laursen (Den) 3-1; M Walsh (Eng) bt A Gray (Eng) 3-2; W Mardle (Eng) bt R Carver (US) 3-2; H van der Rassel (Neth) bt C Lloyd (Eng) 3-2.