Phil Taylor’s love affair with Blackpool reached a triumphant conclusion as he thrashed Peter Wright 18-8 to land a 16th World Matchplay title on his emotional farewell appearance at the Winter Gardens.
The Power, who brings the curtain down on his legendary career at the end of the season, walked out onto his favourite stage for the 107th time since the tournament was first held back in 1994 and came off it with his 99th victory and his hands firmly gripped on the prestigious trophy one last time.
Taylor began his campaign last Sunday as a 20/1 outsider but rolled back the years with one-sided wins against Gerwyn Price (10-5), Raymond van Barneveld (11-3), Michael van Gerwen (16-6) and Adrian Lewis (17-9) before finishing the job in equally emphatic fashion against Wright in his 17th final here.
Indeed, it was the incredible demolition of world number one and two-time defending champion MVG in the quarter-finals which saw him shoot to the head of the betting but he seemed unfazed by the extra pressure and expectations as he kept the momentum going for two more games to ensure his dream was fulfilled.
Taylor averaged 104.24 against Wright, hit seven 180s and nailed 18 of his 33 attempts at a double in another vintage display which fittingly ended on double 16 as he delighted his fans around the world.
The 56-year-old won 72 legs throughout his five matches and lost just 31 as none of his opponents even got close to denying him.
Taylor, who collects a cheque for £115,000, told the PDC website: " It's fantastic - this has capped everything off for me. It couldn't have come at a better time and it's a bonus for me.
"It's lovely, it really is and I've loved every minute of it. To win a major at my age is fantastic, and I've had a tough week when you look at the draw.
"I'll miss this place tremendously - I've loved it here since the first time I walked through the door. It's great to win again and it will go down in history, and I'm delighted for everyone who's supported me.
"During the final I was watching every bit of Peter's body language and he showed every sign of being a little bit tired. I wanted to keep putting him under pressure. I was miles in front at one time and he came back, but I was playing ok and I kept him under pressure."
It's his first established major televised title since 2014 but on this evidence his decision to retire at the end of the season-ending World Championship may have come to early. He's 10/1 with Sky Bet to bow out on an ultimate high at the Alexandra Palace although that market is headed by van Gerwen at 4/6, with Gary Anderson and Wright next in the running at 6/1.
Snakebite, who was appearing in his first World Matchplay final and was bidding for his second major televised title having won the UK Open back in March, was averaging comfortably over 100 for much of the contest (ending at 99.74) despite having problems on his doubles but he always trailed and never once got even level.
A run of three straight legs saw him cut Taylor's early lead to 8-6 but from there the Power turned on the style by winning 10 of the next 12 legs for a quite stunning triumph which completes a fairytale ending to his World Matchplay career.
Wright, who pockets the runners-up prize of £55,000, said: "Phil is still the best in the world and he's showed that this week. I've watched Phil demolish other players in finals and I was on the other end of that big stick that he normally bashes everyone with - but it was a privilege in his last game here.
"I learned a lesson today and I'm grateful to be in the final. A couple of years ago I watched Michael getting beaten by Phil in the final and he was in tears, and that's how much it meant to him.
"It's exactly the same for me and I'll go back to the practice board, become better and I'll come back stronger. I'm still learning and it was great to learn off the master there in the final."
By Chris Hammer
Scroll down for the full leg-by-leg report and match statistics!
Phil Taylor 18-8 Peter Wright: Match Statistics
Phil Taylor: 104.24 (Tournament average: 101.46)
Peter Wright: 99.74 (Tournament average: 97.08)
Phil Taylor: 7 (Tournament total: 31)
Peter Wright: 7 (Tournament total: 21)
Phil Taylor: 54.55%, 18/33 (Overall: 46.75%, 72/154)
Peter Wright: 27.59%, 8/29 (Overall: 35.84%, 62/173)
Ton + checkouts
Phil Taylor: Highest - 82 (Whole tournament: 3)
Peter Wright: 101, 100 (Whole tournament: 8)
World Matchplay final: Leg-by-leg report
LEG 26 - TAYLOR THROWING FIRST
PHIL TAYLOR IS THE WORLD MATCHPLAY KING FOR THE 16th AND FINAL TIME! He has annihilated Peter Wright just like he did Gerwyn Price, Raymond van Barneveld, Michael van Gerwen and Adrian Lewis to get his hands on the famous trophy one last time. A seventh 180 of the match kept him decisively ahead of Wright in this final leg before fittingly landing a double 16. He's now won 99 of his 107 matches on this Winter Gardens stage and boy will that last one be the sweetest!
Taylor's coronation should be just moments away as we wait for the players to come back on stage, with Taylor needing one more leg for victory.
Wright earns a stay of execution with a 15-darter but it won't matter to Taylor as he walks off for what will surely be the final interval of this match.
Just one more leg required for Taylor as four successive visits of 100+ sets up a 14-darter.
A deflated and mentally beaten Wright misses six darts at doubles as Taylor, who was previously nowhere in this leg, is gifted the chance to break the throw once again and duly obliges.
This is becoming another procession for Taylor as a 13-darter, helped by two 140s, sees him edge ever closer to this 16th World Matchplay title.
LEG 21 - WRIGHT THROWING FIRST
Snakebite needs to produce a minor miracle to turn Taylor's Blackpool dream into what would be a never to be forgotten nightmare. But that's not going to happen as three opening visits of 60 or less allows Taylor to race away to a 14-dart break.
Taylor is maintaining his scoring momentum and now averages a shade over 105 while he's hit 56.52% of his doubles. On another day Wright's 102.39 average would have him winning most matches but he's second best in virtually all areas tonight.
I really thought Snakebite would give Taylor a run for his money tonight despite how good the Power has been on his favourite stage of all. He wants a 16th title that badly but he's not showing any signs of the nerves we saw during the Premier League semi-final encounter with Wright back in May. His sixth 180 of the match paves the way for a 14-darter as he goes into the interval just five legs away from an emotional victory.
Wright finally stops the rot with a 13-darter on his own throw thanks to two opening 140s and a ton. He simply must get close to Taylor and make him feel the nerves of reaching the finishing line.
Make that four legs on the trot for the 15-time champion as a 13-darter puts him six clear of Wright, who isn't really doing too much wrong to be fair. He was hoping to have a chance from 56 but the Power's finishing is so efficient right now.
A rather tame leg by what we've seen so far although Wright nearly takes out 126 after two treble 19s but his miss at double six allows Taylor to break with a two-dart combo from 46. Taylor's three legs on the trot could break Snakebite's heart.
LEG 16 - TAYLOR THROWING FIRST
Taylor reaches double figures and just needs eight more legs - potentially - to fulfill his dream. Two 140s in this leg paves the way to a steady 14-darter, with Wright waiting on 110.
My words sadly can't do justice to what a stunning five legs of darts that was as both players found an extra gear with their scoring and hardly missed a double. Taylor is now averaging 105.84 and has hit 50% of his doubles while Wright is on 103.23.
So much for an edgy final! Taylor bounces straight back with a break of his own in 11 darts, helped along by his fourth and fifth 180s and a clinical finish from 60.
A pumped up Snakebite hits his sixth 180 of the match and backs it up with visits of 140 and 130 before taking out 51 in two throws for an 11-darter.
Wright's stunning scoring streak continues with successive visits of 174, 140 and 171 but almost blows the leg with four misses at a double before landing double one. Could this be the start of a comeback?
Back-to-back 180s gives Wright a chance for his first career televised nine-darter but although that dream fades, he returns at the next visit to complete a 12-darter for a much-needed break. Taylor wasn't anywhere in that leg.
LEG 11 - WRIGHT THROWING FIRST
Incredible. Taylor looked liked he'd fluffed his chance from 82 when hitting two single 16s but he goes back to the bullseye and hits it! That opportunity only came after Wright has missed five darts at a double following three successive 140s so that will hurt Snakebite a lot.
Phil Taylor has now upped his average to 104.37 and his checkout percentage to 46.67% as he clinically takes control of this final. Wright is averaging over 101 and has hit three 180s but he's not being given much of a sniff at the doubles in the last few legs.
The crowd are beginning to expect Taylor's Blackpool love affair to end with quite a climax - so to speak (!) - as another 12-darter sees him hold his throw comfortably, with Wright way back on 241. He hit three successive 140s before taking out 81.
Most darts fans have enjoyed watching a vintage Taylor romp into his 17th World Matchplay final and it's the same again tonight as he takes out 81 with a bullseye finish for a 12-darter and an all-important break.
Taylor's finishing under pressure is looking very solid indeed and this time checks out from 72, with his third dart pinning double 16, to stay two legs ahead. Wright was waiting to pounce on 60 but didn't get the opportunity.
I mentioned earlier how deadly Wright has been with three-figure checkouts so far this tournament - and indeed as he always is - so it's no real surprise to see him land 100 with 20, and two double tops to finish off a 12-dart leg in style.
LEG SIX - TAYLOR THROWING FIRST
Taylor is cruising towards this leg on his throw when leaving 60 but Wright puts the pressure on with a timley 180. Nevertheless, the Power holds his nerve by taking out double 10 with his final dart.
Phil Taylor is currently averaging 101.08 compared to Wright's 98.42 while the pair both have a 180 each. They've both taken out around 30% of their attempts at doubles which is to be expected on such a high-pressured occasion.
Wright misses another dart at a double but nails tops with his first attempt on his next visit after Taylor fails to carve a chance to break from 139.
The wait for the first 180s of the match end in style with both players landing a maximum on their first visits. The high scoring continues as Taylor gets down to 51 in nine darts, with Wright close behind on 84. With the pressure on, Power completes a 12-darter to re-establish his two-leg lead.
Taylor misses double tops for another break to go 3-0 up and Wright gets on the board with a fine checkout from 101, finishing on double 16. That will settle him down after a sloppy start.
I predicted a nervy match - although no prizes for that - and both players show the occasion could already getting the better of them by spurning seven shots at doubles between them in a awkward display of finishing. Power looked like he'd blown his early advantage by busting from 20 but thankfully for his supporters Wright missed four attempts at a double and it proves costly.
LEG ONE - Wright to throw first
Phil Taylor nearly brings the house down as he narrowly misses bullseye for a 161 finish against the Wright throw but returns on the next visit to complete a 14-darter.
Best of 35 legs * The match must be won by two clear legs, with up to a maximum of five additional legs being played before the sixth additional leg is sudden-death
Pre-match build up
All times BST
1921: Enough of quizes, stats and head-to-head records, the final is under way...
1920: They are Bob Anderson (11-9, 2nd rd 1995), Peter Evison (8-1, 2nd rd 1996), Ronnie Baxter (13-10, QFs 1998), Peter Manley (17-14, SFs 1999), John Part (16-11, QFs 2005), Terry Jenkins (17-11, SFs 2007), James Wade (17-14, SFs 2015) and Michael van Gerwen (18-10, Final 2016).
1919: Here he comes for one last time at the Winter Gardens. It's his 107th match on his favourite stage and only eight men have ever beaten him. Can you reel them off before my next update in one minute?
1918: Snakebite is mildly booed as he takes to the stage but it's all in good heart for now. He knows who the crowd are rooting for tonight.
1916: If anyone is interested in my verdict then I'm actually going against the current form and the tournament statistics by backing Peter Wright to edge a very tight and nervy final. For all my reasons click here and scroll down to the bottom of my betting preview.
1915: The players are about to walk out onto the stage but there's still time to check out their head-to-head record...
Wright 10 wins, Taylor 20 wins, 3 draws
Wright 5 wins, Taylor 5 wins, 1 draw
1912: I've also compiled their overall tournament statistics which basically underline the fact that Taylor has been almost back to somewhere near his very best on consistently high scoring and clinical finishing while the only area Snakebite has been superior (statistically) is the ton+ checkouts. But bare in mind he's played more legs!
Phil Taylor: 54-23
Peter Wright: 54-39
Phil Taylor: 100.59
Peter Wright: 96.39
Phil Taylor: 24
Peter Wright: 14
Phil Taylor: 44.63% (54/121)
Peter Wright: 37.50% (54/144)
Ton + checkouts
Phil Taylor: (3) 151, 121, 106
Peter Wright: (6) 147, 108, 106, 101, 101, 100
1910: Here are both players' routes to the final, complete with match-by-match stats, and it's fair to say Taylor has been the most impressive of the pair. Just click on each scoreline if you want a report from that day's play.
1905: Phil Taylor is Sky Bet's to win his 16th World Matchplay title after following up his with another impressive . His opponent Peter Wright can be backed at . Sky Bet's final Price Boost is from 5/2.
After seeing off two-time defending champion , the Power, who is bidding for a 16th title in Blackpool in his final season before retirement, then beat Adrian Lewis 17-9 to reach his 17th final here.
By contrast, Wright is contesting his first World Matchplay final having seen off a brave challenge from unseeded Daryl Gurney. who was at least successfully backed at 10/1 to win his quarter.
I'm Chris Hammer and I'll be bringing you leg-by-leg updates as the final unfolds but before then I have some statistics and head-to-head records to help you with your bets.