The PDC World Darts Championship is a staple of Christmas time and darts fans don’t have to wait any longer to open their present, as the action from Alexandra Palace gets under way this week.
Last year saw the Cinderella run of Rob Cross to the title, which got us thinking. What are the biggest upsets in World Darts Championship history?
Here’s our top 5:
5) Kevin Munch beating Adrian Lewis 3-1 in the first round (2017/18)
Two-time world champion and three time finalist Adrian Lewis has since struggled to replicate the form of his back-to-back world title winning years in 2011 and 2012, but in twelve World Championship appearances from 2006 to 2017 he had always advanced beyond the first round.
That was expected to continue when he faced Germany’s unheralded Kevin Munch at the first hurdle of the 2017/18 Championship. But in an unforgettable giant-killing, Munch produced high-quality darts and held his nerve to defeat Lewis and win The Jackpot.
4) Kirk Shepherd beating Wayne Mardle 6-4 in the semi-finals (2007/08)
As a qualifier, Kirk Shepherd was at long odds of 1000-1 with bookmakers like William Hill at the start of the 2007/08 tournament, but went on to record a series of upsets to make the final and come within one match on being crowned an unlikely champion.
Shepherd beat Terry Jenkins in the first round, then knocked out Mick McGowan, Barrie Bates and three-time former finalist Peter Manley to reach the semi-finals, any-one of which could be considered contenders for this list.
But it was his semi-final showing against Wayne Mardle – who had just knocked out Phil Taylor in previous round- that was the biggest shock and likely the finest performance of his darts career. Shepherd’s 6-4 victory over Mardle sent shockwaves through the sport, but the underdog’s great run would fall just short when he lost to John Part in the final.
3) Bill Davis beating John Part 3-0 in the first round (2008/09)
John Part arrived at the 2008/09 Championship as the reigning World Champion and was rewarded with what looked to be an easy touch against American qualifier Bill Davis.
But the Canadian suffered a nightmare first round exit as Davis stormed to 3-0 win. Davis would be defeated in the next round however by Barrie Bates.
2) Michael Smith beating Phil Taylor 4-3 in the second round (2013/14)
16-time world champion Phil Taylor was the reigning champion and cemented his tag as betting favourite for his 17th title at the 2013/14 Championship, after dispatching Rob Szabo in the first round.
But then The Power was taken out. In the second round against 23-year-old Michael Smith, Taylor was beaten 4-3, with the youngster capping victory on a stunning 128 checkout and going on to record perhaps the biggest upset in World Darts Championship history.
1) Rob Cross winning last year’s championship (and beating Phil Taylor 7-2 in the final – 2017/18)
Maybe it’s just because it’s still fresh in the mind, but Cross’s run to the title at last year’s Championship still feels like the most remarkable underdog story on memory.
Having turned professional just 11 months earlier and competing in his first World Championship, Cross survived two match darts against Michael Smith and six match darts against reigning World Champion and World Number One Michael Van Gerwen in the semi-finals.
That all set up a dream final with Phil Taylor – competing at his final World Championship and set for a fairy-tale ending – but Cross blew away the legendary Stokie, winning 7-2 and claiming his first world crown.
Returning this year as defending champion and world number 2, would you bet against Cross doing it again? Bookmaker William Hill have installed him as the fifth favourite this year (available at 25/1 and you can bet 10 and get 30 here) with Van Gerwen as short as an 11/8 favourite.