A review of Friday's action at the Betfred World Matchplay in Blackpool, where Daryl Gurney beat Peter Wright in an all-time classic to set up a semi-final with Rob Cross.
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Gurney and Wright heat up Winter Gardens in epic
Daryl Gurney battled past Peter Wright 16-13 in an astonishing tussle of the highest quality to seal a World Matchplay semi-final date with Rob Cross at the Winter Gardens.
The Northern Irishman, who so often saves his very best for the big occasions, defied Snakebite's sparkling average of 104.57 and 12 180s while he also ended his opponent's 20-match winning run and his hopes of a fourth successive title.
Gurney was in sensational form himself in a real Winter Gardens treat - and he had to be - averaging 101.86 and firing in nine maximums as he reached his second Blackpool semi-final in three years.
It was a courageous, ice-cool performance akin to when he defeated Michael van Gerwen in the climax of the Players Championship Finals and now he's two wins away from a third major title having also won the 2017 World Grand Prix .
The result also saw Gurney gain a measure of revenge for the defeat he suffered to the Scotsman in the last four here two years ago, with Snakebite missing the chance to reach the semi-finals for the fourth time in five years.
Wright's stunning winning run of 20 matches also comes to an end, as does his bid to claim what would have been a fourth title in a row, a 26th career title and his second big televised major.
The 2017 UK Open champion, who headed to Blackpool on the back of landing the German Darts Masters and two Players Championship events, can nevertheless feel a lot closer to the same standard as he was during the year of his maiden televised crown, when he bagged 11 titles.
Wright's average of 104.57 was also the 10th time he'd recorded a three-figure mark in a row and the 12th in his last 21 games.
Gurney, who has won four titles overall in his career and three of those in stage tournaments, told www.pdc.tv: "It might've looked like I showed composure on the outside, but inside I felt like a little kid,"Gurney admitted.
"I know I'm never going to be the best player in the world, but I'm a grafter who can beat the best players in the world. As usual I did it the hard way, but I'm through now and I've got a massive opportunity to win this title."
In an absorbing contest, Wright made the first ton-plus checkout of 120 to level the tie at 5-5 at the second interval and there would incredibly never be more than a leg between them all the way to 13-13.
But when Gurney held throw, the Northern Irishman landed a crucial blow when he took out 70 after a timely 180 to break throw and go within a leg of victory, which he did at the first attempt.
Voltage just about hot enough to burn Bunting
Rob Cross hit a 170 checkout en route to a hard-fought, yet throughly entertaining 16-14 victory over Stephen Bunting as he reached his first World Matchplay semi-final in Blackpool.
Voltage looked in control of the contest when leading 9-4 but a brilliant battling performance from his opponent gave him a real scare before finally he finally got himself over the line.
Cross was consistently the heavier scorer and landed 13 maximums in his superior average of 101.96 while he raised the Winter Gardens roof in the ninth leg as he caught the Big Fish for a 15-darter that moved him into a 6-3 lead.
Bunting, who had upset the odds against both Gerwyn Price and Ian White in dramatic circumstances to register more wins on this stage than he had in five previous visits to Blackpool, produced a highly commendable display to push the 2018 world champion hard but ultimately just fell short.
After Cross fired in an 11-darter to move into a commanding 9-4 lead, the St Helens man threatened a comeback similar to the one he inflicted on White by winning six of the next seven legs - a run that included his own 11-darter and a second ton+ checkout, although he was gifted the 20th by a mis-firing Voltage.
Cross missed key doubles over the course of the next eight legs that went with throw but with the tension building at 14-14, he raised his game with 10 and 13 darters to secure a thrilling victory.
Bunting averaged 96.08 and hit seven 180s but was better on his doubles as he made 14 of his 32 as Voltage spurned 25 of his.
The Hastings thrower is now marginal favourite ahead of Glen Durrant to land his first time since August 2018 and his second major since lifting the biggest prize of them all.
That would see him complete two thirds of the Triple Crown in just his third season on the PDC circuit, with just the Premier League title remaining.
Cross told www.pdc.tv: "Stephen was incredible, he was a real credit to himself up there but thankfully I managed to hold tight and come on strong at the end.
"Towards the end of the game I managed to find my Premier League form and I think I showed nerves of steel.
"I've learnt a lot over the last two years and I'm starting to get there now. Hopefully there will be a happy ending for me here."
Sky Bet's World Matchplay title odds
- Rob Cross - 5/4
- Glen Durrant - 5/2
- Michael Smith - 7/2
- Daryl Gurney - 7/2
Friday results & Saturday schedule
Friday July 26 (1900 BST)
Quarter-Finals (Best of 31 legs)
TV Channel: Sky Sports
- Rob Cross 16-14 Stephen Bunting
- Peter Wright 13-16 Daryl Gurney
Saturday July 27 (1900 BST)
Semi-Finals (Best of 33 legs)
TV Channel: Sky Sports
- Rob Cross v Daryl Gurney
- Glen Durrant v Michael Smith