Fallon Sherrock’s dreams of repeating her PDC World Championship heroics were dashed by veteran Steve Beaton at Alexandra Palace.
Sherrock was making her first appearance since her history-making run in 2019 when she beat Ted Evetts and Mensur Suljovic to become the first woman to win a match in the tournament.
But her hopes of sinking 1996 champion Beaton – who was making a record 31st appearance – fell flat as the 57-year-old defied the boos to claim a 3-2 win.
Sherrock, who proved her 2019 run was no fluke by going on to reach the Nordic Masters final and the Gram Slam quarter-finals, started as a marginal favourite to overcome her opponent.
But she blew a two-leg lead to lose the first set, and despite levelling she was whitewashed in the third set to once again hand Beaton the advantage.
Beaton, who touched a 104 average in the first set, had been playing above expectations but Sherrock stormed back to win the fourth set and force the decider.
The extent of Sherrock’s popularity was evident as the fans took against Beaton, with boos ringing around the arena as he sealed a 68 checkout to complete his victory.
Eighth seed Jonny Clayton survived a scare to edge teenager Keane Barry 3-2 and book his place in the second round.
Clayton, the reigning Grand Prix champion, fought back from 2-1 down in a high-quality match that featured no fewer than 10 three-figure checkouts to secure victory.
Debutants Florian Hempel and Martijn Kleermaker cruised through their first-round matches against Marin Schindler and John Michael respectively.
In the afternoon session, Ross Smith produced back-to-back checkouts of 167 and 102 to sink former BDO world champion Stephen Bunting 3-2 in their second-round clash.
In first-round action, there were debut wins for Alan Soutar and Jason Heaver, while Maik Kuivenhoven beat Ky Smith 3-1 to set up a clash with fourth seed James Wade.