Reigning champion Michael van Gerwen was given a stern test before eventually booking his spot in the second round of the PDC World Championship.
The Dutchman would have been looking to make a statement against Joe Cullen as he began the defence of his title at the Alexandra Palace.
Van Gerwen, though, was largely listless throughout but did just enough to claim a 3-1 victory over his 25-year-old opponent from Bradford in a match where every set went to the deciding leg.
A 161 checkout from the underdog in the opening leg let Van Gerwen know he was in for a tough battle, although the reigning world champion edged the first set.
PDC Darts World Championship 2014
PDC Darts World Championship 2014
1/11 Brendan Dolan 3 Nolan Arendse 0
Brendan Dolan progressed to the second round as he beat South African Nolan Arendse
2/11 Raymond van Barneveld 3 Rowby-John Rodriguez 0
Raymond van Barneveld hit his best form to beat Rowby-John Rodriguez
3/11 Michael Smith 3 Mensur Suljovic 1
Michael Smith battled back from a set down to see off Mensur Suljovic
4/11 Alastair Cook 1 James Anderson 0
England Test captain Alastair Cook beat his team-mate James Anderson in an exhibition one-leg shootout
5/11 Peter Wright 3 Gerwyn Price 0
Peter Wright breezed past Gerwyn Price 3-0 to book his place in the second round
6/11 Phil Taylor 3 Jyhan Artut 0
Phil Taylor celebrates his first round victory over Jyhan Artut
7/11 Keegan Brown 3 John Part 2
Keegan Brown knocked out former champion John Part in the first game of the tournament
8/11 Cristo Reyes 4 Christian Perez 0
Cristo Reyes enjoyed an incredible night as he beat Christian Perez 4-0 in the preliminary round before upsetting the odds to knockout Wes Newton
9/11 Jelle Klaasen 3 Christian Kist 1
Jelle Klaasen beat his Dutch compatriot Christian Kist 3-1
10/11 Michael van Gerwen 3 Joe Cullen 1
Michael van Gerwen was pushed all the way in his 3-1 victory over Joe Cullen
11/11 Wes Newton 2 Cristo Reyes 3
Wes Newton suffered a shock 3-2 defeat after sudden death to Cristo Reyes
But Cullen missed two darts at double top to level proceedings and Van Gerwen took advantage to go 2-0 ahead.
Yet he struggled to find his best form and went 2-0 behind in the next set, and while Cullen missed another chance to win a set he eventually got on the scoreboard with a 114 checkout.
That temporarily spurred Van Gerwen into life and seven consecutive 180s gave him a sniff of a nine-darter, although his eighth dart missed the treble 19.
But Cullen would not go away and took the set to another decider, where Van Gerwen triumphed to his obvious delight.
"A win is a win," said a relieved Van Gerwen, who averaged 96.96, to Sky Sports Darts.
"I felt pressure in the beginning but then I told myself 'this is going to be my day'. The pressure was alright, it was not too bad but I think I did quite well for the first game on the stage."
Van Gerwen, who won 11-9 in legs, admitted he must improve before his last-32 clash.
"I made too many mistakes and the next game I'm not allowed to do. Otherwise sooner or later you can get damaged for that or hammered for that," he added.
"But I just want to do well now and enjoy this moment because it's great."
There was a shock on the opening day of the championship, though, as three-time champion John Part crashed to a 3-2 defeat to debutant Keegan Brown.
The 48-year-old Canadian battled back from 2-0 down to force a deciding set but the reigning world youth champion held his nerve.
There was better luck for 2006 BDO world champion Jelle Klaasen, who defeated fellow Dutchman Christian Kist 3-1.
There was a shock in the final encounter of the evening as 13th seed Wes Newton lost in a dramatic last leg sudden death shootout to Cristo Reyes, who had qualified for the first round by beating Christian Perez 4-0 in the preliminary round earlier in the evening.
With the scores tied at 2-2 and 5-5 in sets and legs respectively, confusion reigned as Reyes threw for bull to determine who would throw first in the shootout, only to be told that he had to play on.
Midway through the shootout, though, it was realised a mistake had been made and the players began the leg again, with Reyes holding his nerve to seal a surprise win but leave Newton thoroughly unimpressed.
William Hill World Darts Championship Alexandra Palace, London
1st rd: Keegan Brown (Eng) bt John Part (Can) 3-2
Preliminary rd: Cristo Reyes (Spa) bt Christian Perez (Phl) 4-0
1st rd: Jelle Klaasen (Ned) bt Christian Kist (Ned) 3-1
1st rd: Michael van Gerwen (Ned) bt Joe Cullen (Eng) 3-1
1st rd: Reyes Cristo (Spa) bt Wes Newton (Eng) 3-2