Peter Wright won his first World Matchplay title by defeating defending champion Dimitri Van den Bergh 18-9 with a dominant display at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.
An emotional Snakebite, who dedicated the 18-9 victory to his wife Jo in a tear-jerking speech, becomes just the fifth player in history behind Phil Taylor, Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson and Rob Cross to complete a World Championship-World Matchplay career double - but it's perhaps more remarkable that he's won both a year either side of his 50th birthday.
Wright first hit our TV screens way back at the Lakeside in 1995 but after an early exit to Richie Burnett he subsequently turned his back on the game for 12 years before relaunching himself as a professional darts player thanks to support and encouragement from his wife and that has continued to spur him on to greatness throughout his career.
She was back in the crowd for the first time this week following her recent back surgery and there was hardly a dry eye in the house during his victory speech, as beaten Van den Bergh also broke down in tears at the sight of his 'adopted' father and former landlord with the Phil Taylor Trophy in his hands.
The defending champion, who was bidding to become just the fourth player to retain it, has always attributed a huge part of his transformation into a major winner down to the three months he spent at Wright's house during the first lockdown, but the master joked earlier this week that he didn't teach his apprentice all of his mastery. And so it proved in emphatic fashion on Sunday night in front of a bouncing Blackpool crowd.
Last month Snakebite bullishly predicted he'd win both the World Matchplay and World Championship this season - albeit only advising punters to stake £1 or 50p at odds of around 88/1 - and having completed part one in brutal fashion, he's now 6/1 third favourite behind Michael van Gerwen and Gerwyn Price to win his second world title at the Ally Pally.
If the world number two can keep reproducing the kind of magic we've seen all week for the rest of the year then he may well have to start as favourite. The 2017 runner-up, only dropped 33 legs across all his matches which were all one-sided affairs (10-3 v Noppert, 11-5 v Cullen, 16-7 v Smith, 17-10 v MVG) while his average of 105.9 against Van den Bergh meant he finished on a stunning 104.91 for the tournament.
"That one was for Jo [Wright's wife]," said Wright. "She's been through a lot over the last year or so, but she insisted she would be here for the final.
"I’ve backed up what I said to everyone a month back. A lot of players have commentated saying I should leave the talking to my darts and that’s what I’ve done.
"I used to watch the World Matchplay as a kid and now my name is on the trophy forever and that’s special. It was amazing to lift that trophy in front of this amazing crowd.
“As soon as I walked on, the crowd were behind me and it was a real goosebumps moment, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck."
Wright's performance wasn't quite as impressive as the mesmerising 110.37 against Van Gerwen last night but it was plenty good enough to pile too pressure on the Belgian, who wilted on his doubles throughout the contest.
The fact he averaged as high as 100.88 despite his checkout percentage of 27.27% was testament to his plucky heavy scoring, which featured 11 maximums, while Wright pinned 18 of his 31 doubles (57.06%), including an 84 checkout on the bullseye, and fired in 10 180s.
This was Van den Bergh's first defeat in the competition having lifted the trophy on his debut in the behind closed doors setting of Milton Keynes but having thrilled the fans this week with a string of sensational displays himself, there can be little doubt he'll be gracing occasions like this many more times in the future.
The 27-year-old, who had beaten Devon Petersen (10-5), Dave Chisnall (11-7), Gerwyn Price (16-9) and Krztsztof Ratajski (17-9) to get this far, averaged 100.16 for the tournament and his 49 maximums was the third highest ever behind Adrian Lewis (56 in 2013) and Gary Anderson (52 in 2018) but his 180s per leg ratio was far higher.
Wright's winnings of £150,000 sees him close the gap on Gerwyn Price to £181,750 at the top of the world rankings while Van den Bergh's £70,000 lifts him up three places to number five behind Van Gerwen and James Wade.
"Every game I’ve played, I’ve dug deep and played my best but tonight Peter was just outstanding," said Van den Bergh.
"Of course it was a disappointment [to lose] but I can say that I gave everything and never gave up.
"I said to Peter that I’ll be back stronger. I’m number five in the world and I’m only 27, so I’ve got time on my side."
Sky Bet latest odds: You can't back Peter Wright now but Van den Bergh is 100/1 to pull off a miracle. The 180s market is level pegging and they can both be backed at 2/1 apiece, with the tie 5/4. Click here now for all the Sky Bet live darts markets including most 180s & highest checkout.
Sky Bet latest odds: Peter Wright is now 1/16 to close out the match while Dimitri Van den Bergh is just about clinging on at 7/1 in his attempts to pull off an incredible comeback. Click here now for all the Sky Bet live darts markets including most 180s & highest checkout.
Sky Bet latest odds: Peter Wright has drifted slightly to 1/20 from 1/33 while Dimitri Van den Bergh is now 8/1 from 10/1 since the previous interval. Still asking a lot though to put it mildly. Click here now for all the Sky Bet live darts markets including most 180s & highest checkout.
Sky Bet latest odds: Peter Wright is now 1/33 favourite to win his first World Matchplay while Dimitri Van den Bergh is way out at 10/1 to mount a stunning comeback. Click here now for all the Sky Bet live darts markets including most 180s & highest checkout.
Sky Bet latest odds: Peter Wright is now 1/5 favourite to win his first World Matchplay while Dimitri Van den Bergh is 10/3 to defend it. Still a long way to go. Click here now for all the Sky Bet live darts markets including most 180s & highest checkout.
2045: The players have now made their entrances in front of a packed house, with Van den Bergh even conducting the crowd as his great friend Wright came out on stage. Now we're ready for what promises to be an unforgettable final to begin...
2020: Time for a short break before the final gets under way but in the meantime I've got a competition running on Twitter where you can win a World Matchplay programme signed by Dimitri Van den Bergh and Peter Wright (and Michael van Gerwen for good measure!). You only need to retweet to enter and I'll draw the winner tomorrow night.
2015: Anyone who followed my otherwise woeful pre-tournament betting preview - in which all my outsiders got knocked out in round one - will be rooting for headline tip Dimitri Van den Bergh at 14/1, but what about some bets for tonight's match?
Well, rather than pasting in my entire final preview, here are my tips below and if you want to read the reasons why, then just click here. Scoreline predictions are very hard in such a long match but for what it's worth, I'm going for 18-16 in Van den Bergh's favour.
2010: As for the chances of a nine-darter tonight, you can get 10/1 with Sky Bet on either player managing it (or 100/1 that they both do!) but if you want to be more specific, VDB is 25/1 and Wright is 16/1.
There have been seven in World Matchplay history but none of them have come in the final. Let's remind ourselves of the most recent from Gary Anderson back in 2018...
2005: With time running out before the final, let's quickly run through the overall tournament stats...
(Van den Bergh stats listed first on the left)
It's no surprise these two players have the highest tournament averages and although there's quite a big difference between the pair, you've got to bare in mind the higher figure was somewhat inflated by that stunning 110.37 against Michael van Gerwen in the semi-final.
Van den Bergh 'only' managed 98.51 against Krzysztof Ratajski, whose wasteful finishing played no small part in the Belgian roaring back from 6-2 down to win 15 of the next 18 legs and book his place in tonight's final.
Dancing Dimitri averaged over 102 against both Gerwyn Price and Dave Chisnall so if he can get to those levels - and preferably exceed them - then he'll be a real match for Wright, who can't surely go as high as 110 again. Or can he?
Here's a few more stats in graphic form from Carl Fletcher, who has been writing half of our daily previews during the tournament. You can follow him on Twitter at @CarlyFletch for more darts stats.
2000: As for Peter Wright's route to the final, it's been one-way traffic in every game although it was only his magical performance against Michael van Gerwen that he didn't seem to brand 'rubbish'!
Snakebite has sucked the life and spirit out of his opponents with some sensational finishing throughout and few words other than majestic and spectacular would do justice to his display against MVG.
There was a spell in the match when he won four legs in a row in just 45 mesmerising darts as he stormed into a 10-4 lead and while MVG did mount a high-quality comeback to trail 10-8, Snakebite soon hit the turbo blasters again. The only thing missing was a nine-darter, but he came close to that as well.
1955: So how did both players reach their second World Matchplay finals? Let's start with Dimitri Van den Bergh...
Dimitri Van den Bergh has pretty much made a mockery of the notion that debutants struggle with the unique Winter Gardens atmosphere and heat. No player has ever lifted this prestigious trophy on their first outing in Blackpool - apart from when Larry Butler won the inaugural event back in 1994 - although Ronnie Baxter and James Wade both managed to reach the final on debut in 1998 and 2006 respectively.
The defending champion's toughest clash in terms of scoreline came against Dave Chisnall when he hit a second-round record number of 180s with 14, but his most impressive was the manner in which he blew Gerwyn Price away in the quarter-finals before giving the Iceman a taste of his own medicine with the celebration.
Van den Bergh never really looked fazed when trailing Ratajski 6-2 in the semi-finals as he remarkably won 15 of the next 18 legs - but this was mainly down to his sublime finishing, which included three 100+ checkouts, compared to his opponent's wastefulness rather than a barrage of high scoring.
1945: Right, here's the head-to-head record between the pair and believe it or not, they've only faced each other 12 times since their first in 2015 although we have to assume they racked up a lot of battles in Wright's house last year!
Interestingly, of the five occasions Wright has beaten Van den Bergh - including at the World Cup of Darts in 2019 - he has gone on to win that tournament, although none have been the final.
Slightly more importantly, Wright batted away VDB's 106 average to win their most recent meeting in the Premier League back in May so maybe that's a tiny factor to bare in mind.
1930: We've already mentioned what Dimitri Van den Bergh is hoping to achieve tonight but what about Peter Wright?
Snakebite is chasing his first ever World Matchplay title in his second final having been denied by Phil Taylor in his farewell final back in 2017 - but he's become a far greater force since then.
That said Wright needed to wait three years before he started to add to his solitary major - the 2017 UK Open - but he did so with the biggest of the lot on New Year's Day 2020 against Michael van Gerwen at the Ally Pally.
He subsequently picked up the Masters crown before Covid ruined his coronation season but he did treat a small crowd to European Championship glory back in October when he was pretty much unplayable all weekend.
His world title defence ended early and his slow start to the Premier League cost him the chance to reach the play-offs - but he's picked up three Pro Tour titles, including the most recent earlier this month against MVG, to get his year back on track.
Wright's confidence was never really affected and last month told punters to put a pound on him winning the World Matchplay and World Championship double at around 80/1. Those odds are now 14/1!
Here's a quick look at both players' career highlights...
DIMITRI VAN DEN BERGH
1915: Good evening and welcome to our live blog of the Betfred World Matchplay final, as Dimitri Van den Bergh bids to become just the fourth player to defend the title after Rod Harrington, Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen.
Twelve months on from lifting the Phil Taylor Trophy on his tournament debut behind closed doors in Milton Keynes, the Belgian sensation will look to thrill a bouncing Winter Gardens for one last time this week after a string of sensational displays helped him get this far on his Blackpool debut.
Standing in his way is his former housemate Peter Wright, who is marginal favourite to come out on top in this 'master v apprentice' affair that promises fireworks and drama.
Everyone knows the story of how the Dream Maker spent the first lockdown at Snakebite's mansion/palace last year and learned so much from the former world champion in a bid to reach the next level in his budding career.
Few expected him to do it in the second most prestigious major of the lot that same summer. On his tournament debut, unseeded and as a 100/1 pre-tournament outsider. Oh, and he had to beat Gary Anderson in the final to do it.
"I've been accepted by the whole family as their adopted son. I've learned a lot from Peter Wright.
"Everybody knows I have stayed with him for three months, he took care of me for three months and then all of a sudden, I get to the World Matchplay on my debut and I manage to win it."
Since then his career has continued on a consistent upwards curve and he narrowly missed out on a place in the Premier League Play-Offs in his debut campaign earlier this year.
Already this week he's wiped the floor with world number one Gerwyn Price but how will he fare against Snakebite, who was phenomenal last night in pummelling Michael van Gerwen.
The final begins at around 2030 BST so between now and then we'll run through the routes to the final, tournament statistics, head-to-head records and some predictions.
Before we get into the present, here is quick look at the previous finals in the tournament history...