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Masters: Stephen Bunting reacts to outrageous comeback win, sets up showdown with Luke Humphries

Stephen Bunting will meet world number one Luke Humphries in a fascinating last 16 encounter tomorrow, after launching an improbable fightback to deny Ross Smith in the evening's finale.

Former European Champion Smith conjured up a sublime 135 finish on the bull to establish a 5-2 buffer, only for Bunting to win the last four legs in 15, 13, 15 and 14 darts to complete the fightback.

"I had to dig very deep there," said Bunting, who landed an inspired double-double 96 skin-saver in the closing stages.

"I know how dangerous Ross is. He's a really good friend of mine and I feel really sorry for him there, but I'm really happy with the win.

"The crowd were unbelievable again when I walked on to the stage. I wanted to put a great performance in and thankfully I got over the line."

Meanwhile, former champions Jonny Clayton and James Wade crashed out on an eventful opening night, succumbing to Krzysztof Ratajski and Dimitri Van den Bergh respectively.

Ratajski landed six of his eight attempts at double to complete a 6-3 success against Clayton, while Van den Bergh swept aside a below-par Wade to create a clash against Michael Smith.

However, 2022 champion Joe Cullen avoided the same fate, averaging 99.32 to win through a quick-fire tussle against Northern Ireland’s number one Josh Rock.

Trailing 4-3, Cullen levelled with a superb 12-darter, and a clinical 117 checkout in the penultimate leg catapulted him to an impressive 6-4 victory.

Earlier in the night, Dirk van Duijvenbode celebrated his first victory since November's Grand Slam of Darts, after outlasting Ryan Searle in the opening match of the tournament.

The Dutchman converted five of his first six attempts at double – including a superb 121 on the bull in leg seven - before crashing in a brace of maximums to win through a dramatic last-leg shoot-out.

Saturday's second round will take place across two sessions at the Marshall Arena, with 2020 champion Wright and last year's runner-up Cross among the names in action.

World Champion Humphries will then headline Saturday evening's action, with Van Gerwen, Smith and World Matchplay champion Aspinall also entering the fray.

Photo Credit: PDC

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