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PDC Unicorn World Youth Champion James Hubbard moved a step closer to sealing a place at Blackpool’s Betfair World Matchplay by winning a dramatic last-leg decider against Steve Brown in Dusseldorf, while James Wade and Simon Whitlock produced impressive performances in round two of the European Darts Open.

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

There were also victories for Robert Thornton, Raymond van Barneveld, Mervyn King and Michael van Gerwen, who will all return to the Maritim Hotel on Sunday, when the final 16 players will battle it out for the £15,000 title.

Hubbard held his nerve to win 6-5 for the second consecutive day, as he broke Brown’s throw in the deciding leg to seal victory.

The 19-year-old now occupies a provisional qualifying place for the World Matchplay, ahead of what is likely to be a crucial third round match against Mark Walsh on Sunday afternoon.

Wade produced checkouts of 151 and 107 in a 6-3 triumph over Jelle Klaasen. ‘The Machine’ faces Andy Smith in the last 16.

Whitlock stormed past Ronny Huybrechts, winning five consecutive legs to take a 6-1 victory, which included a brilliant 160 finish.

He said: “The crowds have been amazing for me and I’ve been so impressed because I’ve never had support like this anywhere else in the world. Tomorrow’s a big day for me and I can’t wait. My form’s improving game on game.”

‘The Wizard’ will take on Thornton on Sunday afternoon, after the Speedy services UK Open winner defeated Vincent van der Voort 6-4, despite the Dutchman hitting five 180s.

Thornton said: “I’m feeling confident and hopefully my darts will continue to get better and better as the weekend goes on.”

van Barneveld defeated Brendan Dolan 6-2 to book his place in the third round.

“The result looks so solid but I was 4-0 up and blew what could have been a fantastic leg when I missed all those doubles,” said the Dutchman, who hit four maximums in his victory.

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

“I had to work hard from there to win the match. But I’m feeling comfortable and I’m looking forward to playing Gino Vos on Sunday.”

King won a last leg decider against Ronnie Baxter, to set up a last 16 clash against Steve Beaton.

van Gerwen saw off the challenge of Brian Woods, claiming a 6-4  victory to reach the last 16.

“It was difficult but winning was the most important thing,” said ‘Mighty Mike’, who will play Richie Burnett on Sunday afternoon.

“It doesn’t matter how you win as long as you win, so I’m very happy. I missed too many doubles but I’m through.”

There was also positive news for Paul Nicholson, when other results meant that ‘The Asset’ would keep his place inside the world’s top 16, guaranteeing him a place in Blackpool.

By Chris Murphy

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