Sensational comeback sees Bunting triumph in Betfred World Matchplay

Stephen Bunting produced a sensational comeback to defeat Ian White, while Peter Wright, Rob Cross and Daryl Gurney also advanced to the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Matchplay.

Night Five of the prestigious event saw Bunting recover from 9-4 down, surviving five match darts before winning a tense tie-break 14-12.

White, who hit ten of the game’s 19 180s, appeared to be cruising through to his first televised quarter-final in over two years after opening up a 9-4 lead, before Bunting won four successive legs to cut the gap to one.

Tenth seed White stopped the rot with a break of throw to go within a leg of victory at 10-8, but missed three clear darts at double 16 in the following leg, allowing Bunting to land double top to trail 10-9.

The next leg saw White miss another two darts for the match, and Bunting once again stepped in to pin double ten and take the match to a tie-break.

White held to regain the lead, and a strong leg saw him waiting on 48 to break throw, only for Bunting to step in and take out a roof-raising 110 checkout to level once again.

The next two legs both went against throw, but after White burst his score twice when aiming for double eight, Bunting eventually mopped up double ten to lead 13-12 before completing the incredible comeback on double 16 in the final leg of the memorable contest.

“It’s special to reach the last eight of my favourite tournament, it’s a massive moment in my career,” said Bunting, who will face Cross in the quarter-finals.

“It’s crazy really when I think of the players I’ve beaten on that stage, Ian is a special player.

“I know I can do it, it’s just about consistency and pushing myself to the limit and I believe I’m doing that now.

“I was so nervous but when I hit the winning double I took a deep breath before it and I was so relieved to see it go in.”

Cross ran out a convincing 11-5 over Krzysztof Ratajski to reach the quarter-finals for the first time at the Winter Gardens.

After Blackpool debutant Ratajski took a 2-0 lead, a relentless display saw the former World Champion win nine legs without reply to take a stranglehold of the tie.

Polish number one Ratajski kept fighting and won three of the next four legs to make the scoreline respectable at 10-5, but Cross was not to be stopped and he wrapped up the win on double 16, his 11th successful shot at the outer ring from 19 attempts.

Sixth seed Wright laid down a marker with the highest average of the tournament so far in an 11-2 demolition of Simon Whitlock.

Former runner-up Wright, who came into the tournament on the back of four tournament wins in the last two months, continued his hot streak with a 103.01 average.

In a replay of last year’s quarter-final, which Wright also won convincingly, Whitlock was restricted to just five darts at double, while the Scot landed a 170 finish and went seven darts into a perfect leg in a stunning display.

“I’ve found the little bit of magic I need and I’m going to get even better,” said Wright, who will meet Gurney in the last eight.

“It was a shame I didn’t hit the nine-darter, but I’m throwing at a good pace, I’ve got the right darts and I feel really comfortable with them.

“This is a hard tournament but all the big names are gone and I think the hardest half of the draw now is the bottom half.”

Gurney made it through to the last eight for a second time in three years thanks to a hard-fought 11-9 victory over Keegan Brown.

Two-time TV title winner Gurney – who ended the match with eight 180s to his name – broke throw in the second leg on his way to an early 3-0 lead, before the next 11 legs all went with throw in a tight contest to leave Gurney 8-6 in front.

Leg 15 saw Brown break the Gurney throw for the first time, only for the Northern Irishman to break straight back before holding throw to go within a leg of the match at 10-7.

A resilient Brown clinched back-to-back legs to cut the gap to 10-9, only for Gurney to find a last-dart double four to prevent a tie-break.

The quarter-finals begin on Thursday as Michael van Gerwen’s conqueror Glen Durrant plays James Wade, and Michael Smith takes on Mervyn King.

Friday’s last eight contests will open with the tie between Cross and Bunting, before Gurney and Wright face off for a place in the semi-finals.

Following the conclusion of the second round, Cross is now the 11/4 tournament favourite with sponsors Betfred as the 2018 World Champion chases another TV title.

Wright is the 3/1 second favourite ahead of Blackpool debutant Durrant (9/2), World Championship finalist Smith (5/1) and 2007 World Matchplay winner Wade (7/1).

Gurney is a 9/1 chance as he targets a third TV title, with Bunting and King the 28/1 outsiders.

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