Michael Van Gerwen and Simon Whitlock will meet in the BetVictor World Matchplay darts semi-finals, after they enjoyed thrilling quarter-final victories over Dave Chisnall and James Wade at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.
World Champion van Gerwen, the pre-tournament favourite with sponsors BetVictor, came through a see-saw battle with number nine seed Dave Chisnall 16-12 as he moved through to the last four in Blackpool for a second successive year.
The Dutch star trailed 3-0 early on as Chisnall made a superb start, only for the world number one to hit back to level - despite Chisnall hitting seven perfect darts in the game’s fifth leg.
Van Gerwen then moved ahead for the first time at 5-4, and though Chisnall broke back to level, he then finished double 16 before taking out 130 to defy two 180s from the Englishman in leg 12 as he took a 7-5 cushion.
The next four legs were shared to leave van gerwen 9-7 up, before Chisnall stole the next on double four before levelling with a stunning 11-darter - hitting two 180s to van Gerwen’s one and then taking out 96.
A further four maximums were hit in the next two legs as the pair again traded 180s, and a later 81 finish from Chisnall was cancelled out by a 126 bull checkout from van Gerwen as he levelled at 11-all.
The duo were then matched with double top finishes to remain locked at 12 legs apiece, but van Gerwen struck the game’s key blow in the 25th leg with a brilliant 129 bullseye finish to break and move 13-12 up.
He then hit tops to create some breathing space and took out legs of 14 and 13 darts to complete a superb victory.
“It was an amazing game and I’m proud of my performance,” said van Gerwen. “Dave tested me but I produced some great darts at the right moments, especially the 129 finish to go 13-12 up.
“Dave was fantastic and he put me under pressure at the start but I came back very strongly and I thought I dominated the game and was the better player after that.
“I knew I had an extra gear, but fair play to Dave because he played some great darts. He never gives anything away and that makes it even sweeter to win this game.
“I’ve never won this tournament before and that’s my aim this week, but this win means a lot to me and I’ve got to focus on the semi-final now.”
Chisnall was also defeated by van Gerwen in last year’s quarter-finals in Blackpool, and admitted: “The last session killed me off and I have to work on the longer format because I ran out of steam.
“I could have been 5-0 up at the start but Michael’s the world number one and I knew I’d have to dig in. He hit a lot of bull finishes and was great on that tonight.
“I enjoyed it, though, and it’s more experience for me on the big stage. It’s been a good tournament for me and I’ve battled hard.”
In the night’s other quarter-final, Australian ace Whitlock had to come from four legs down for the second successive match as he gained revenge for a narrow defeat to Wade at the same stage.
Wade, the 2007 champion, stormed out of the blocks with a thrilling start as he opened the game with a 180 in a 13-darter, broke Whitlock in leg two and also took the next two legs to move 4-0 up with an average around 110.
Whitlock kick-started his challenge with seven perfect darts in the fifth leg, missing out on a possible nine-darter but taking the leg in 13 darts on tops to get off the mark.
He also took the sixth leg before Wade scored 180 and 174 in a superb 13-dart leg to move 5-2 up - only to see the former European Champion storm into the lead by taking the next seven legs without reply.
The run included back-to-back 14-dart finishes and a key 126 checkout on the bull for a 12-darter in leg 13, as Wade waited on 24.
The left-hander produced a 12-darter of his own to stem the tide at 9-6, but Whitlock finished 74 and double eight as he moved five legs clear of the former champion.
Wade won three of the next four legs as he pulled back to 12-9 to threaten a comeback, but Whitlock steadied any nerves by hitting tops and then took out a key 110 checkout to break and move 14-9 up.
The Australian then landed his tenth 180 of the game as a 14-darter moved him to the brink of victory, with Wade punishing one missed double for the match in the next to land tops only for Whitlock to hit two 180s in another 14-dart leg to seal his semi-final spot.