JOE Cullen bowed out of the Cazoo Masters at the last-16 stage over the weekend, despite being handed a more generous draw than expected.

The Bradford native beat young Northern Irish talent Josh Rock 6-4 in a high-quality opener on Friday night, which should have put him into a clash with Gerwyn Price, who is the current world number five, on Saturday afternoon.

But the Welshman pulled out a few days before the tournament due to family reasons, meaning Daryl Gurney stepped in.

Under the tournament’s rules of entry, following Price’s withdrawal, the next available player on the PDC’s Order of Merit was to step in.

With Jose de Sousa unable to attend the event in Milton Keynes, that meant Price’s spot went to world number 26 Gurney.

And the Northern Irishman made the most of his unexpected chance against Cullen, winning a gruelling encounter 10-8.

Wyke ace Cullen made a decent start against Rock, with the first four legs all going with throw to make the score 2-2.

The 34-year-old broke to edge ahead and should have moved 4-2 up, only to miss two big darts at double 15 to allow his young rival to level.

But another break of throw gave Cullen the edge, and he closed out the game nicely to win 6-4 with an average of 99.32 to defeat the 22-year-old Northern Irishman.

Gurney is 15 years older than his countryman and is only five places below Rock in the world rankings, so it was still always going to be a tough test for Cullen on Saturday.

It was a high-quality start to proceedings, with Cullen averaging 100 in taking a 3-2 lead.

But Gurney won four legs in a row thereafter to establish a commanding lead, and a comeback was always going to be a big ask.

At 9-7 down, Cullen stayed in the contest by producing a gritty D8 with his final dart, while his rival waited on a shot at D16.

But Gurney made no mistake in the next leg, closing out a 10-8 win.

He was knocked out in the quarter-finals by Nathan Aspinall, while Stephen Bunting went on to win the tournament, beating Michael van Gerwen 11-7 in the final to claim his maiden televised PDC title.

Cullen meanwhile, has received an unexpected boost regarding the European Tour.

He had dropped out of the top-16 on the Pro Tour Order of Merit, meaning he was set to have to qualify for the 13 European events this season.

However, while that rule remains, with the top-16 Pro Tour players all getting a bye into the second round of those 13 events, the top 16 players in the world rankings will also now qualify automatically too.

They will have to enter at the first-round stage, but will not have to play any qualifiers, which is great news for Cullen, who is currently 12th in the world.