Daryl Gurney and Peter Wright will clash in the BetVictor World Matchplay semi-finals after battling through tense quarter-finals with Mensur Suljovic and Darren Webster last night in Blackpool.
Gurney produced arguably the performance of his career to reach Saturday’s last four with an epic 16-13 comeback win against Suljovic.
The Northern Irish ace’s rise has continued with an impressive week in Blackpool, and he piled in 13 maximums and finished 57 percent of his chances at a double to see off the number seven seed.
Gurney began brightly with a 171 as he took the opening leg and a 13-darter to lead 2-1, before Suljovic finished 81 and 80 as he won three in a row to move 4-2 up.
The Austrian also led 5-3 and 6-4 as the pair continued to trade maximums, before Gurney levelled and then took out a sensational 146 checkout to regain the edge at 7-6.
An 11-darter from the Northern Irish ace was followed by a ten-dart finish from Suljovic, who then broke throw to lead 9-8 only to see Gurney finish 100 to square a tight contest once more.
Finishes of 84 and tops saw Suljovic move back into the ascendancy at 11-9, and he fired in a maximum as he took a 12-10 lead, only for the momentum to swing once more as Gurney took three successive legs to wrestle back the advantage.
Double ten levelled for Suljovic, but Gurney moved 14-13 up on tops and then followed his 13th 180 with double 18 to break throw, before punishing his opponent’s rare miss at double 14 by taking out double eight for the win.
The runner-up in the recent U.S. Darts Masters in Las Vegas, Gurney is now set to appear in his third televised ranking semi-final on Saturday, and admitted: “It’s an unbelievable feeling.
“Mensur is one of the hardest people to beat in the world. He scores so steadily and finishes so well. He probably only had one poor leg on his own throw in the game and I punished him to get the crucial break.
“I’ve learned a lot about being patient and I kept on, and eventually the break came – but in 29 legs he only slipped up once.
“I was trying to keep my emotions in check and be patient, but I’m still learning and I’m just pleased to have got over the finishing line.
“I’m not here to make up the numbers but I’m not thinking about the final. I’ll have to be at my best on Saturday but I can improve on this and I’ll need to in the semis.”
Number three seed Wright also had to fight back from behind before he eventually overcame East Anglian rival Darren Webster, who led 11-9 before seeing the UK Open champion pull clear for a 16-12 victory.
A see-saw contest began with Wright taking a 2-0 lead before Webster hit back to move 3-2 up, twice punishing misses from the world number three.
A pair of 96 checkouts, to complete legs of 11 and 12 darts, moved Wright 4-3 up only for him to see Webster move back in front at 5-4 and 6-5.
Wright levelled with a 101 finish, and then came from 8-6 down to lead 9-8 as he broke twice in a three-leg run.
Again, though, missed doubles cost Wright dearly as Webster levelled in leg 18, finished double five to move back ahead and double 16 to break for an 11-9 cushion.
Wright responded once more, finishing double 18 before legs of 11 and 12 darts – both featuring maximums – saw him sneak back ahead at 12-11, and a Webster miss at tops in the next allowed the Scot to move two legs clear.
Double 14 gave Wright a three-leg lead for the first time at 14-11 before he punished four misses from Webster at tops to move to the brink of victory.
Double eight kept Webster’s hopes alive, but Wright kept his cool to take out 74 in two darts to reach the semi-finals for the second time in three years and remain on course for his second televised title.
“It was a battle and Darren makes it so hard, and if he had hit his combination finishes towards the end it would have been a different story,” said Wright.
“He missed a few doubles but when he starts hitting them he’ll be up here with the rest of us in the top 16.
“I didn’t play well in patches and I’ve not played my best game yet. I felt really comfortable but the darts weren’t going. The crowd were amazing and got behind me.
Looking ahead to the semi-finals, Wright added: “Daryl is playing fantastic, he’s on a high and he doesn’t care who he plays.
“He owns that stage at the moment and it’s great when you feel like that, but I’ll try and upset his applecart. It’s going to be a great match.”
The quarter-finals conclude on Friday with the remaining two matches, with two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis meeting Alan Norris before the repeat of two previous World Matchplay finals between reigning champion Michael van Gerwen and 15-time Winter Gardens winner Phil Taylor.
After winning through to the last four, Wright’s odds as second favourite with sponsors BetVictor have been cut to 10/3, with Gurney a 10/1 chance to win his first televised title on Sunday.
Van Gerwen remains the 4/11 favourite, with Taylor 12/1, Lewis 20/1 and Norris the 66/1 outsider.
BetVictor World Matchplay
Thursday July 27
Daryl Gurney 16-13 Mensur Suljovic
Darren Webster 12-16 Peter Wright
Friday July 28 (7pm)
Alan Norris v Adrian Lewis
Michael van Gerwen v Phil Taylor
Best of 31 legs
4/11 Michael van Gerwen
10/3 Peter Wright
10/1 Daryl Gurney
12/1 Phil Taylor
20/1 Adrian Lewis
66/1 Alan Norris
2/1 Alan Norris v 2/5 Adrian Lewis
1/6 Michael van Gerwen v 4/1 Phil Taylor
2/1 Daryl Gurney v 2/5 Peter Wright