BRADFORD darts ace Joe Cullen had to do it the hard way to advance in the Betfred World Matchplay as he came back to beat the seeded Ian White on a last leg decider.

In a scrappy affair, where both players averaged less than 94, it was the Bradfordian who used his grit and determination to recover from four legs down, passing the first round at the tournament for only the second time in his sixth attempt.

Cullen, who recently struggled in the Summer Series, was out for revenge after the Stoke dartist had whitewashed him at the same stage last year.

With no crowd being allowed at the major, which was moved to Milton Keyes' Marshall Arena due to the pandemic, breaking Blackpool's Winter Gardens' 25-year association as host, fake noise and fans videos were implemented to try create somewhat of an atmosphere.

In what was a tense beginning, the Wyke player raced into the lead, reeling off three consecutive legs to stun the favourite.

However, a mixture of poor scoring and big finishing, including three ton plus checkouts, handed White the initiative. The world number 11 won eight of the next nine legs to find himself in a commanding 8-4 lead in the first to 10 contest.

There would be a turning point in the 14th though. After stopping the dominance a leg before, Cullen was allowed to clean up his opponent's two missed darts at double.

Cullen's fighting spirit would continue, producing a 98 checkout and capitalising on the 49-year-old busting, before roaring himself in front from a couple of breaks down.

The 'Rockstar' would even squander two match darts. White slotting away 89 calmly to set up an exhilarating ending.

It was to and fro for the following six legs with neither man wanting to give an inch. Another three match darts would come and go for the 31-year-old, who desperately wanted to get over the line.

He eventually did with ease in the 25th leg decider in 19 darts, finding double 16 to finally condemn the sorry White.

Speaking to SKY Sports post match, Cullen was disappointed with his performance but glad to get through in the end.

He said: "I felt good on the practice board, it just didn't materialise. We were both rubbish but a win is a win."

The world number 18 will play either Nathan Aspinall or Dimitri Van den Bergh in the second round later in the week.