LUKE ‘The Nuke’ Littler is now the tournament favourite after reaching the last 32 of the Ladbrokes UK Open in Somerset.

The 17-year-old reeled in a big-fish 170 finish during his 10-7 win against three-times UK Open champion James Wade on the main stage at Butlin’s Resort Minehead.

And with bookmakers’ favourite Michael van Gerwen being knocked out by Austrian Mensur Suljovic in the match previous, it means all eyes are now on the former Padgate Academy student to win this title for the first time.

Littler, who spent the early years of his childhood in Runcorn, looked set for a spectacular scoreline against the 40-year-old when he assembled an 8-2 lead in destructive manner.

At that stage he was averaging around 105 and had banked an astonishing 80 per cent of his doubles.

But the interval seemed to give Wade a new lease of life as won five of the next six legs.

He held his throw to make it 8-3 after Littler was so close to his second 170 checkout, missing the bull by a whisker.

Scoring wobbled for ‘The Nuke’ in the 12th as Wade broke him with a 104 exit.

Littler missed double 16 in attempting to hit straight back as Wade cashed in for 8-5.

A wonderful double-bull ending from Littler as he finished on 120 put him one leg away from victory but Wade was not about to throw in the towel.

He held throw with a 109 finish and then broke Littler again with an 11-darter to keep things interesting at 9-7.

But a strong response from Littler in the 17th leg, including two lots of 140, saw him home.

His fifth-round opponent will be 27-year-old German professional Martin Schindler, who progressed from the fourth round at the expense of Gerwyn Price 10-9. Full list of fourth round results and fifth round draw below.

Speaking afterwards, Littler said seeing Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp talk about him was just another day in his crazy life.

Klopp compared his young band of players, who helped win the Carabao Cup last week and then earn a quarter-final spot in the FA Cup, to the 17-year-old, who the German described as the “new darts sensation”.

Littler burst onto the scene at the World Championship over Christmas.

His historic run to the final saw him transcend the sport and become a global star, so seeing Klopp reference him was nothing out of the ordinary.

Littler, a staunch Manchester United fan, said: “I actually watched the final and the young lads are doing well, but if he wants to compare them to me then he can.

“I actually woke up and someone told me that he compared me to his young lads, so I went online and watched the video.

“I gave it a like and went on to the next video. That was literally another day in my life.”

Littler is gunning for his first major title since joining the main PDC Tour at the start of the year.

“I have not even thought about it, but I know if my game is there every match then I don’t see why I can’t win it,” he said.

“I don’t mind who I play. It is what I dreamed of, playing in front of thousands every week, I just take it in my stride.”

Three-time champion Van Gerwen was below par as he was dumped out by Suljovic.

The Austrian has been in the darting doldrums in recent years, but posted a standout win, outplaying Van Gerwen, who appeared to be nursing an elbow injury.

Suljovic said: “I beat Michael van Gerwen, the best player in the world. I am feeling good, I am practising every day, I am a different person.

“I had a big problem with my family, I came back and practice every day, and hope I can do well in the tournament.”

Andrew Gilding began the defence of his 2023 title with a 10-7 win over Josh Payne and intends to celebrate by eating a Pot Noodle.

‘Goldfinger’ was a surprise winner last year when he beat Van Gerwen in a thrilling final and finished so late he had nothing to eat except the instant snack.

“When I won it last year there were no takeaways open so I had to eat a Pot Noodle to celebrate,” he said. “So I actually brought a couple of Pot Noodles and I’ll eat one tonight out of tradition.

“I have got a chicken and mushroom or beef and tomato. Maybe I’ll have beef and tomato with a little bit of extra ketchup, I bring my own.”

Former world champion Michael Smith said he was unable to celebrate his 10-7 win over Josh Cullen in the same way because he had already eaten one for lunch.

“I had a Pot Noodle for lunch before I came here so that’s out of the window,” he said. “I have a standing order, I get some sent every month.”

There were wins for world number one Luke Humphries, Gary Anderson and Nathan Aspinall.

Play went on on all day in Minehead, with 158 players starting out and Littler being among the world’s top 32 to enter the event in the fourth round played out over eight boards.

Players are competing for a £110,000 top prize, with a total prize fund of £600,000 on offer being paid down to the last 128.

Ladbrokes UK Open 2024 Fourth Round results:

Andrew Gilding 10-7 Josh Payne
Mensur Suljovic 10-7 Michael van Gerwen
Luke Littler 10-7 James Wade
Luke Humphries 10-7 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Danny Noppert 10-8 Gabriel Clemens
Michael Smith 10-7 Joe Cullen
Damon Heta 10-8 Simon Whitlock
Martin Schindler 10-9 Gerwyn Price
Graham Usher 10-9 Ryan Searle
Kevin Doets 10-6 Daniel Klose
Ross Smith 10-8 Daryl Gurney
Nathan Aspinall 10-6 Scott Mitchell
Ryan Meikle 10-6 Brett Claydon
Benjamin Reus 10-7 Jose de Sousa
Chris Dobey 10-3 Mickey Mansell
Stephen Bunting 10-3 Danny Lauby
Ricky Evans 10-4 Scott Williams
Keane Barry 10-6 Kim Huybrechts
Rob Cross 10-3 Rowby-John Rodriguez
Gary Anderson 10-5 Cameron Menzies
Luke Woodhouse 10-9 Raymond van Barneveld
Jonny Clayton 10-9 Tim Wolters
Martin Lukeman 10-5 Leonard Gates
Dimitri Van den Bergh 10-8 Brendan Dolan
Gian van Veen 10-7 Florian Hempel
Mike De Decker 10-6 Richard Veenstra
Dave Chisnall 10-4 Nick Kenny
Krzysztof Ratajski 10-4 Adam Gawlas
Peter Wright 10-3 Joshua Richardson
Josh Rock 10-5 Patrick Geeraets
Mervyn King 10-3 Ricardo Pietreczko
Vincent van der Voort 10-5 Boris Krcmar

Ladbrokes UK Open 2024 Fifth Round draw:

Ricky Evans v Mike De Decker
Peter Wright v Andrew Gilding
Luke Littler v Martin Schindler
Stephen Bunting v Kevin Doets
Michael Smith v Luke Woodhouse
Dave Chisnall v Mensur Suljovic
Vincent van der Voort v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Gary Anderson v Chris Dobey
Graham Usher v Gian van Veen
Rob Cross v Josh Rock
Jonny Clayton v Ross Smith
Benjamin Reus v Luke Humphries
Damon Heta v Nathan Aspinall
Martin Lukeman v Danny Noppert
Keane Barry v Ryan Meikle
Krzysztof Ratajski v Mervyn King