STEPHEN BUNTING produced a remarkable performance to defeat Steve Beaton and progress to the second round of the German Darts Masters as the £115,000 PDC European Tour event kicked off in Munich on Saturday.
The sell-out event, which is being held at the Ballhausforum through to Monday, saw the event's 32 qualifiers take to the stage in the first round, with the high-profile clash between former Lakeside Champions Bunting and Beaton living up to its billing.
After trading blows early on, some masterful finishing from Beaton - including a 161 checkout in the sixth leg - saw the 51-year-old take a 4-3 lead before Bunting produced his best darts to claim the next three legs in succession and secure a 6-4 victory.
Bunting, who is high on confidence following a Players Championship victory a fortnight ago, produced a 97.63 average - the second highest of the day - to secure his second round berth and set-up a clash with world number five Peter Wright.
Arguably the performance of the day came from former Players Championship Finals winner Kevin Painter, who posted a 101.7 average in a 6-1 victory over Stuart Kellett, despite the Northwich ace agonizingly wiring double 12 for a nine-dart finish earlier on in the contest.
Elsewhere, Jermaine Wattimena caused an early shock as he knocked out William Hill World Championship quarter-finalist Alan Norris in a narrow 6-4 win.
Daryl Gurney put in another fine display as he beat Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-3 to progress to the second round, with the Dutch Darts Masters finalist firing in four maximums and a ten-darter on his way to victory over the young Belgian
Coral UK Open quarter-finalist Joe Cullen ensured his safe progression into round two with a 6-1 victory over Mike Zuydwijk, whilst Chris Dobey overcame debutant Ben Davies by the same scoreline.
Devon Petersen also tasted victory as he squeezed past World Youth Championship finalist Nathan Aspinall to set up a meeting with Benito van de Pas, with William O'Connor and James Wilson safely progressing to play Kim Huybrechts and Mensur Suljovic respectively.
It was a disappointing day overall for the four German representatives home qualifiers, with Rene Eidams the only player to progress as he put in some clinical finishing to overcome Peter Hudson and set up a second round clash with 2015 German Darts Masters champion Michael van Gerwen, the world number one who took victory when they met in the World Championship three months ago.
Meanwhile, Andrew Gilding also suffered shock early exit at the hands of James Richardson in a 6-1 demolition, whilst young Dutch star Jeffrey de Graaf continued his fine form as he recovered from 4-2 down to beat Darren Johnson and move through to meet Michael Smith.
Swiss newcomer Thomas Junghans had a debut to forget as he crashed out to Mark Walsh in the tournament's opening fixture, while Ronnie Huybrechts and Cristo Reyes both safely progressed at the hands of John Michael and Mark Barilli respectively.
The German Darts Masters resumes on Sunday, with the top 16 seeded players entering the competition in the second round in Munich.