The World Championship has provided the perfect scene for some of the sport’s most incredible upsets in recent years, and we’ve picked out our top seven for you to relive.
The short sets format, particularly in the early rounds, ensures a nervy opening for the seeded stars as they scramble to stay in the running prior to the Christmas break.
A clutch of former champions have fallen foul to some performances of a lifetime from a number of unfancied outsiders. Here are our seven most memorable upsets to date…
Michael Smith vs Phil Taylor (2013)
Christmas was to be cancelled for one faithful punter who slapped an incredible £100,000 on Taylor to cruise into the Third Round.
Little did they know that young gun Smith had already make huge strides on the circuit during the season and had his eye on a scalp after Taylor’s opening round wobble.
The reigning champion drew first blood as he took the opening set, before the St Helens’ star responded swiftly to level at one apiece.
Taylor looked to have dealt a key blow when he came from 2-0 down to snatch set three after Smith had missed two darts at tops in the decider, but the former World Youth Champion hit back to level again.
Watched on by his mentor Gary Anderson, Smith held firm to edge the fourth set to restore parity, but imploded in the next after missing four set darts to allow the maestro off the hook to lead 3-2.
Bully Boy responded superbly as he turned up the scoring power and coasted to a clean sweep in set six, before punishing Taylor’s rare lapse on the finishing to level the decider at one apiece.
By this time, the tide looked to have turned, and despite Taylor hitting back to force a tie break situation, Smith’s scoring won the day, and the 23-year-old closed out victory with an unforgettable 128 checkout on the bull.
Bill Davis vs John Part (2009)
Following the final staging of the Las Vegas Desert Classic earlier that year, American darts had hit a slump, but one proud Philadelphian was about to put his nation back on the darting radar.
50-year-old Davis could not have wished for a much tougher draw in the opening round than that of the reigning champion – Canadian legend Part, but the man nicknamed ‘Classic’ was to play his part in, well, exactly that.
A sensation was on the cards when Davis took the opening set 3-1 with a 116 checkout, and after Part missed five darts to wrap up set two in the decider, Davis kept his cool on tops to double his lead.
The American ace showcased a pronounced lurch on his throw, but that did not halt him from completing a remarkable straight sets triumph courtesy of double 10 in the third set decider to dump out the defending champion.
James Richardson vs Raymond van Barneveld (2012)
Van Barneveld’s fragile form had seen him suffer a number of other early round exits that season, and dangerous debutant Richardson sensed he had both the form and belief to do a job on the Dutchman.
It looked to be plain sailing for Barney as he took the opening two legs, but only for the Rushden ace to produce a stunning 145 checkout in levelling at 2-2 and double one to steal the set.
That early setback was visibly playing on Van Barneveld’s mind, and Richardson duly punished his opponent’s slump on the doubles by wrapping up the second set 3-1 with a Shanghai 120 finish.
Five-time World Champion Van Barneveld dug deep and regained his composure to claim the opening two legs of the third set, but only for Richardson to reel off three on the spin, including a second 145 checkout, to seal an incredible victory.
Kevin Munch vs Adrian Lewis (2017)
Germany’s Munch pulled off an incredible upset at Alexandra Palace in 2017 as he came from a set down to knock out two-time World Champion Lewis for a place in the opening round.
Lewis had previously never lost in Round One of a PDC World Championship but was left stunned by an inspired turnaround from the 29-year-old left-hander.
Munch had earlier progressed through a Preliminary Round clash with Russia’s Aleksandr Oreshkin in straight sets and raised his game on his return later in the evening, landing eight 180s and three ton-plus checkouts to send Lewis crashing out of tournament and out of the world’s top 16.
Mensur Suljovic vs James Wade (2011)
Perhaps one of the most unorthodox throwers in professional darts, Suljovic produced the performance of his life to defy number two seed Wade as a virtual unknown back in 2011.
Having scraped through as the last European Order of Merit qualifier, ‘The Gentle’ was already riding high after dispatching emerging Dutch star Michael van Gerwen in Round One.
Suljovic then officially put Austrian darts on the map as he recorded a famous 4-2 triumph over the multiple major champion and punished his opponent’s 89 average.
Kirk Shepherd vs Wayne Mardle (2008)
Shepherd will forever be remembered for his fairy-tale run in the first staging of the event at the Alexandra Palace.
Having knocked out Terry Jenkins, Mick McGowan, Barrie Bates and Peter Manley, the 21-year-old debutant was in dreamland when he stepped out to face the flamboyant Mardle.
Many felt that the experience and crowd support of ‘Hawaii 501’ would ensure there would be no further progress for the Ramsgate upstart, but after beating Phil Taylor in the Quarter-Finals, it was a classic case of after the Lord Mayor’s show.
From 3-1 down, Mardle reeled off three consecutive sets to hit the front, but the wheels came off for the Essex ace with the finishing line in sight as he allowed Shepherd back into contention.
The youngster seized his opportunity and held his nerve to take the next three sets and close out the biggest win of his career. There was to be no happy ending, though, as he went down 7-2 to John Part in the final.
Jamie Lewis vs Peter Wright (2017)
Lewis had endured a nightmare season prior to sneaking into the World Championship via a third-place play-off in the PDPA qualifier three weeks earlier.
However, the tournament would prove to be one the 26-year-old would never forget and had already began brightly after a Preliminary Round win over Kenny Neyes and an impressive straight sets scalp of an in-form Clayton.
The Welshman, though, produced the performance of his career to date to stun world number two Wright 4-1 in the Second Round with a spell-binding 107 average.
He dropped just two sets en route to a fairy-tale run to the Semi-Finals, where he eventually became Phil Taylor’s last victim in professional darts.