MENSUR SULJOVIC stunned World Champion Gary Anderson with a 13-9 victory at the BetVictor World Matchplay on Wednesday night as Phil Taylor missed double 12 for a nine-darter in joining James Wade and Dave Chisnall in the last eight in Blackpool.
A thrilling night of second round matches saw Austrian ace Suljovic reach only his third PDC major quarter-final as he followed up his runs in the 2014 and 2015 UK Opens with the biggest win of his career.
Having knocked out James Wade in reaching the third round of the 2011 World Championship, Suljovic will now take on the left-hander in Friday’s World Matchplay quarter-finals after holding his nerve to see off the World Champion.
After Suljovic - who overcame Terry Jenkins in round one - took the game’s opening leg, Anderson finished tops and 98 to move 2-1 up, but that proved the only time the Premier League champion would lead in the contest.
Suljovic won the next three to move 4-2 up, landing a 100 finish with two double tops in the sixth leg, and after Anderson took out 70 and 81 to square the game again the Austrian pulled away.
A 104 checkout was followed by two legs out of three where Suljovic finished double ten to punish misses from Anderson as he moved into an 8-4 advantage, and though the Scot replied in leg 13 a 76 checkout gave the qualifier a ninth leg.
Double 18 gave Anderson two of the next three legs as he pulled back to 10-7, but he paid for missing four doubles in leg 18 as Suljovic was given a reprieve on double two.
Double 14 put the Austrian to the brink of victory at 12-7, and though Anderson punished his missed five match darts in the next two legs, Suljovic regained his nerve to post double 14 once again as he sealed his place in the Blackpool quarter-finals.
“Beating James Wade in the World Championship was my greatest win before this, but this beats that,” said Suljovic, speaking through a translator.
“Gary is one of the best players in the world and the World Champion, so I was very nervous at the end on the checkouts to beat him. I had to stay calm and concentrate and I did that, and I’m so happy right now.”
The defeat ended Anderson’s hopes of claiming a fourth major title inside 12 months, and he admitted: “I had no rhythm - it wasn’t my kind of game.
“He banged in the 180s and took the shots out when he needed to. He played well and did the job but I think I spent more time standing behind him than I did playing darts and I didn’t know whether to play fast or slow.
“I’ve been enjoying my darts and it’s a shame when I get up there and don’t enjoy a game but I’m still trying to win and I’m really looking forward to Australia now.”
Suljovic now faces 2007 World Matchplay champion Wade in Friday’s quarter-finals, after the left-hander overcame Brendan Dolan 13-8 to extend his amazing record of reaching at least the quarter-finals in every visit to the Winter Gardens since his debut in 2006.
Reigning World Matchplay champion Taylor remains on course to claim his eighth successive, and 16th overall, World Matchplay title following a rollercoaster 13-6 win over Stoke rival Hamilton.
However, the game was almost crowned with Taylor’s third Winter Gardens nine-darter as the Stoke legend began the fourth leg with two 180s and then hit a seventh treble 20 and the treble 19 on the 141 combination.
Unlike his quarter-final against Chris Mason in 2002 and last year’s second round against Michael Smith, Taylor this time pulled his dart at double 12 inside his intended target - and went on to lose the leg as Hamilton finished an 11-darter of his own.
That squared the contest at two-all, despite Taylor having opened with an 11-dart finish as he led 2-0, though the world number two responded to win four legs without reply in 15, 15, 13 and 13 darts to move 6-2 up.
Two misses at double 16 in the ninth leg, though, allowed Hamilton to hit back and the two-time Blackpool semi-finalist then took the next three to level the contest at six-all as Taylor suffered further double trouble.
The 13th leg, though, proved decisive as Hamilton missed three darts at doubles across two visits to move in front, allowing Taylor to post a third-dart double six to move 7-6 up.
Legs of 13 and 11 darts moved him clear and he followed up a double 16 finish with another 11-darter to lead 11-6, before hitting double 16 and double ten to take the run to seven successive legs in sealing his quarter-final place.
Taylor now takes on Chisnall in Friday’s quarter-finals in a repeat of the 2013 World Grand Prix and 2014 Grand Slam of Darts finals, with the St Helens ace having edged out World Youth Champion Keegan Brown 13-11 in a thriller.
Chisnall started the better, finishing a 14 darter and a 136 checkout to move two legs up before Brown showed his talent with two 180s in a 14-darter as he got off the mark.
Chisnall took the fourth leg to lead 3-1, but the Isle of Wight youngster responded in style by landing 180s in the next three legs to move ahead before finishing double 18 and a 13-darter for a 6-3 cushion.
Chisnall’s 88 checkout on the bull was bettered by a 114 finish on the middle double by Brown as he moved 7-4 up, with Chisnall’s first 180 coming in the eighth leg as he reduced the gap once again.
Brown finished 82 on tops for an 8-5 cushion, but Chisnall capitalised on missed doubles to claim the next before taking the next four without reply - landing legs of 12 and 11 darts in the process - as he moved back ahead at 10-7.
Brown hit back but was crucially unable to claim the break to draw level as Chisnall added a 13-darter before double four sealed his spot in the last eight for a third successive year.