ST HELENS darter Stephen Bunting is in buoyant mood for the second round of the Ladbrokes Players Championship Finals in Minehead.

He is one of three of the town's four competitors to progress from Friday's opening games.

One of the matches of the day at the Butlin's Minehead Resort featured Bunting edging out Richard North 6-5 in a dramatic clash highlighted by eight 180s and four ton-plus checkouts, including a 164 from the St Helens man.

St Helens Star:

Stephen Bunting enjoys a pleasing moment in his 6-5 win against Richard North in round one of the Ladbrokes Players Championship in Minehead. Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

"I'm delighted with that win against a great player and I feel I am playing better than I ever have in my life," said Bunting.

"I'm enjoying a second lease of life at the moment and I truly believe the best years of my career are ahead of me, I'd love to go far this weekend."

Premier League and World Series Finals runner-up Michael Smith secured the only 6-0 whitewash of the day against Vincent van der Voort.

And another St Helens thrower, Dave Chisnall, the 2016 finalist, landed six 180s and averaged over 97 in his 6-4 win over Jamie Lewis as he came back from 3-2 down.

However, the town's fourth participant Alan Tabern bowed out to 2014 champion Gary Anderson, who returned to winning ways following his loss in the Grand Slam of Darts final, averaging 108 in a 6-2 result.

St Helens Star:

Alan Tabern in round one of the Ladbrokes Players Championship in Minehead. Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Other highlights of the opening round included Krzysztof Ratajski producing a miraculous comeback to stun Gerwyn Price.

New Grand Slam of Darts champion Price made a brilliant start to his bid for successive TV titles by taking out 121 and 113 in the opening two legs, moving 4-0 up without missing a dart at a double.

He also led 5-1 before Ratajski strung together a stunning run of five legs to deny Price a match dart - with legs of 13, 11, 14, 12 and 13 darts earning the Polish number one a memorable victory.

"It was brilliant for me, one of my biggest wins," said Ratajski, who was making his Players Championship Finals debut, after winning the last two Players Championship events in October.

"It's not the first time I have been 5-1 down and won 6-5, and I never thought it was finished.

"At the start I didn't play badly but Gerwyn played perfect darts at the start of the match. In the last few legs I was perfect - it's incredible."

World champion Rob Cross was dumped out of the tournament by Spain's Cristo Reyes, who was in clinical form as he punished the world number three for five missed doubles in a memorable win.

Two-time finalist Adrian Lewis defeated Adam Hunt 6-2 in the opening game of the day on the Main Stage.

Reigning champion Michael van Gerwen averaged 103 as he cruised past Matthew Edgar, hitting a ten-darter and six doubles from ten attempts to begin his bid for a fourth successive Players Championship Finals title.

Keegan Brown was a 6-3 winner against Benito van de Pas, and the Dutchman said: "It would be nice to win this tournament again but I can do better than I showed. There's more in the tank."

The leading performer on the opening day was top seed Ian White, who produced a sensational 111.12 average – the second highest in the history of the Players Championship Finals – as he swept past Scott Taylor, hitting six doubles from nine attempts.

Evergreen fans' favourite Steve Beaton edged an 11-leg thriller, raising the Stage Two roof as he saw off former runner-up Kim Huybrechts.

Germany's number one Max Hopp came from 3-1 down to defeat Steve West 6-4, while his countryman Gabriel Clemens also progressed thanks to a 6-3 win over Andrew Gilding.

However there was less good news for Hopp's World Cup partner Martin Schindler who went down to Nathan Aspinall.

Young Belgian Dimitri Van den Bergh lost out 6-2 to World Grand Prix quarter-finalist James Wilson.

Simon Whitlock was a 6-4 winner of his all-Australian tie with Kyle Anderson, who battled back from 5-1 down with three successive legs before the former European Champion sealed the win, while world number two Peter Wright eased past Spanish ace Toni Alcinas.

Daryl Gurney ended the hopes of 2009 finalist Robert Thornton with a 6-3 victory, coming from 2-1 down to win five of the next six legs, and James Wade began his bid to win a third TV title of the autumn with a 6-4 defeat of Ross Smith.

Last year's runner-up Jonny Clayton got the better of fellow-Welshman Mark Webster 6-3.

Jeffrey de Zwaan won the all-Dutch clash with Jelle Klaasen 6-4, European Championship semi-finalist Joe Cullen landed a 110 finish under pressure to win 6-5 in a tense battle with John Henderson and former semi-finalist Darren Webster cruised to a 6-3 win over Dutch youngster Jeffrey de Graaf.

There were dream debuts for Stephen Burton, Danny Noppert and Latvia's Madars Razma who recorded victories over Jermaine Wattimena, Rowby-John Rodriguez and Mickey Mansell respectively.

Northern Ireland's Brendan Dolan fought his way to a 6-4 win over Michael Barnard, Irish World Cup star Steve Lennon produced an impressive display to see off Ryan Joyce 6-2 and Chris Dobey fought off a comeback from Ron Meulenkamp to win 6-3.

Former Players Championship Finals runner-up Mervyn King found a way past Simon Stevenson 6-4, Ryan Searle reeled off four successive legs to see off Josh Payne 6-2, while Ricky Evans secured his first Players Championship Finals win with a 6-3 defeat of Jan Dekker.

Day Two will again see play split across two stages, with round two in the afternoon and round three in the evening, followed by Finals Day on the Main Stage on Sunday.

Televised coverage of the Ladbrokes Players Championship Finals will focus on the Main Stage, while play on Saturday on Stage Two will be available on PDCTV-HD for all subscribers worldwide.

2018 Ladbrokes Players Championship Finals

Results, Friday November 23, First Round, Afternoon Session, Main Stage:

Jeffrey de Zwaan 6-4 Jelle Klaasen

Max Hopp 6-4 Steve West

Keegan Brown 6-3 Benito van de Pas

Adrian Lewis 6-2 Adam Hunt

Simon Whitlock 6-4 Kyle Anderson

Daryl Gurney 6-3 Robert Thornton

James Wade 6-4 Ross Smith

Dave Chisnall 6-4 Jamie Lewis

St Helens Star:

Dave Chisnall on his way to victory in round one of the Ladbrokes Players Championship in Minehead. Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Stage Two:

Brendan Dolan 6-4 Michael Barnard

Ryan Searle 6-2 Josh Payne

Nathan Aspinall 6-1 Martin Schindler

Gabriel Clemens 6-3 Andrew Gilding

Steve Lennon 6-2 Ryan Joyce

Mervyn King 6-4 Simon Stevenson

Stephen Bunting 6-5 Richard North

Madars Razma 6-4 Mickey Mansell

Evening Session, Main Stage:

Ian White 6-2 Scott Taylor

Gary Anderson 6-2 Alan Tabern

Cristo Reyes 6-1 Rob Cross

Krzysztof Ratajski 6-5 Gerwyn Price

Peter Wright 6-2 Toni Alcinas

Michael van Gerwen 6-1 Matthew Edgar

Michael Smith 6-0 Vincent van der Voort

Stage Two:

Stephen Burton 6-5 Jermaine Wattimena

Joe Cullen 6-5 John Henderson

Jonny Clayton 6-3 Mark Webster

Ricky Evans 6-3 Jan Dekker

James Wilson 6-2 Dimitri Van den Bergh

Danny Noppert 6-3 Rowby-John Rodriguez

Chris Dobey 6-3 Ron Meulenkamp

Darren Webster 6-3 Jeffrey de Graaf

Steve Beaton 6-5 Kim Huybrechts

Fixtures, Saturday November 24, Afternoon Session (1245 GMT), Second Round, Main Stage:

Daryl Gurney v Ryan Searle

James Wade v Nathan Aspinall

Dave Chisnall v Chris Dobey

Cristo Reyes v Steve Lennon

Gary Anderson v Simon Whitlock

Michael van Gerwen v Keegan Brown

Peter Wright v Max Hopp

Stage Two:

Stephen Bunting v Madars Razma

James Wilson v Gabriel Clemens

Jeffrey de Zwaan v Ricky Evans

Stephen Burton v Darren Webster

Ian White v Brendan Dolan

Danny Noppert v Mervyn King

Michael Smith v Jonny Clayton

Steve Beaton v Joe Cullen

Adrian Lewis v Krzysztof Ratajski

Evening Session (1900 GMT), Third Round, Main Stage:

Fixtures TBC

Stage Two:

Fixtures TBC