So far, the Portuguese José de Sousa was considered the greatest escape artist of this darts world championship. In the second round he had won 3:2 after a 0:2 against Simon Whitlock. In round three he even caught up a 0:3 to 4:3 against Ryan Searle.

Dirk van Duijvenbode proved that such dramas can still be improved. The Dutchman had already been part of the only overtime of the tournament in his opener against Karel Sedlacek, survived a match dart against the Czech and won the last set 4:2.

From the second round of the World Cup, winning three legs in the last set is only enough if the player has a two-leg lead – the so-called two-clear-leg rule applies. If no player can work out the decisive lead from now on, the final showdown will only take place when the score is 5:5.

That’s exactly where van Duijvenbode and his opponent Ross Smith arrived when they high-fived before the last darts. After throwing arrows at each other, arguing and reconciling for 96 long and extremely exciting minutes, a leg would now decide whether they entered the round of 16. Smith had the advantage thanks to his throw, but he’d had it more times that afternoon – and hadn’t used it.

In the decider of the sixth set, the Englishman missed a match dart on the bullseye to make it 4:2. One round later he even had three arrows in his hand to win. However, Smith missed the target on double 20, double 10 and also double five. Van Duijvenbode, on the other hand, checked to make it 2:2, saved himself in the next decider and shortly afterwards in the seventh set.

At 2:1, Smith had another chance to win. Again it was double five, again he missed. It was a drama that reached its climax on stage, and as tragically as the “Smudger” failed in his attempts, the nerve strength with which he nevertheless kept his game together was impressive. By the time he boarded his 19th 180, he was only five maximum shots from the world record.

Both players brought their throws through in a superior manner in the hot phase, Smith advanced, van Duijvenbode followed suit with nerves of steel. No one allowed a break dart – until the grand finale in the 36th leg. Even at the decisive moment, it remained a neck-and-neck race. Both hit a triple on their first two shots. After four shots, Smith was at 89, the Dutchman, listed 14th in the Order of Merit, five spots higher than his opponent, with 71 points remaining. Smith earned another match dart but also missed number six – again on the doubles -5. Van Duijvenbode, on the other hand, had one, hitting double 20 to win and raising his success rate on the outer ring to over 40 percent.

A dramatic match that also delivered remarkable things apart from the sporting class – the averages were 93.44 and 96.55 for the loser. The two opponents had already delivered nitpicks in the first set, often walked very close to each other, played with their rhythm and thus also with the opponent. The entire keyboard of permitted psychological tricks was used. The duel had escalated when Smith won the decider of the fifth set after 21 darts. Both had previously missed numerous opportunities.

A very important moment, which the Englishman acknowledged with a loud cheer. When van Duijvenbode, who is usually not at all shy about extroverted celebrations and muscle flexing himself, then took the first leg in round six, he turned to his opponent, made a face, stuck out his tongue and aped the Englishman in a completely exaggerated way.

It crackled on stage, and no one would have been surprised if the increasing drama had led to even more violent arguments. But Smith just shook his head, concentrated on his game and even gave van Duijvenbode a sportingly fair high five after winning the set to make it 3-3. Both smiled, showing respect. They even ended their marathon match arm in arm, knowing they were part of a memorable duel.

Van Duijvenbode now meets Michael van Gerwen in his round of 16 on Friday, and probably only the tournament favorite would object if DVD went into extra time for the third time at this World Cup. Also in the round of 16 are Rob Cross, who defeated Mervyn King 4-1, and Stephen Bunting. The Bullet defeated Dave Chisnall 4-2 in a close duel. Cross now has to deal with Anderson conqueror Chris Dobey. Bunting’s opponent will be determined tonight in the final third round duel between Luke Humphries and Vincent van der Voort.

3rd round:

Dirk van Duijvenbode (NED/14) – Ross Smith (ENG/19) 4:3 (3:1; 1:3; 3:0; 1:3; 2:3; 3:2; 6:5)

Rob Cross (ENG/6) – Mervyn King (ENG/27) 4:1 (3:0; 3:0; 3:1; 1:3; 3:1)

Dave Chisnall (ENG/12) – Stephen Bunting (ENG/21) 2:4 (3:1; 0:3; 0:3; 3:2; 1:3; 2:3)

from 8.15 p.m.:

Luke Humphries (ENG/5) – Vincent van der Voort (ENG/28)

followed by two rounds of 16:

Gerwyn Price (WAL/1) – José de Sousa (POR/17)

Jonny Clayton (WAL/7) – Josh Rock (NIR)