There are few finer sights in sport than an individual or team staring down the barrel of defeat, only to summon up an inspired recovery and turn the tables in dramatic style. It’s sporting theatre at its best and there have been a multitude of classic darting comebacks in this mould over recent years.
I’ve picked out ten of the most memorable comebacks since the turn of the century and there was no shortage of options. There were several epics that missed out, including Dennis Priestley’s sublime fightback from 5-0 down to topple John Part 6-5 in the 2009 Players Championship Finals.
Ted Hankey embraced the role of pantomime villain to perfection as he reeled in a perplexed Simon Whitlock from 6-1 down at the 2013 Grand Slam, whilst who can forget Wayne Mardle’s famous World Championship fightback from 3-0 down against Phil Taylor at Alexandra Palace?
There may be some surprise that Raymond van Barneveld’s astonishing 2007 success against Taylor doesn’t make the list, although despite the Dutchman’s heroics, Taylor wasn’t even halfway to victory at 3-0. Despite this, the five-time world champion still features prominently in the top ten.
Get involved in the conversation by detailing your favourite darting comebacks in the comments section below…
Simon Whitlock vs Jamie Caven – 2013 European Championship
Simon Whitlock has been on the receiving end of some extraordinary darting comebacks throughout his career, although ‘The Wizard’ conjured up some magic of his own to stun Jamie Caven at the 2013 European Championship.
Whitlock was the defending champion in Mulheim, having beaten Wes Newton in the 2012 final to clinch his first major PDC title. In spite of this, he was facing the prospect of a last eight exit against ‘Jabba’ who performed with aplomb to establish a 9-3 buffer.
Nevertheless, a 134 checkout ignited the Australian’s fightback and he somehow reeled off six consecutive legs to force a decider. Caven rallied and left himself poised on 56 to triumph, only for Whitlock to produce an inspired 146 finish to provoke jubilant scenes of celebration.
Raymond van Barneveld vs Colin Lloyd – 2007 World Championship
Raymond van Barneveld’s pulsating sudden-death victory over Phil Taylor in the 2007 World Championship final is widely considered to be the greatest game ever played, yet it wouldn’t have been possible without the Dutchman’s remarkable fightback against Lloyd in the second round.
Whilst Taylor was the overwhelming tournament favourite, Lloyd was top seed at the Circus Tavern and he underlined his credentials by storming into a 3-0 lead in sets. However, RvB fought back from the brink, restoring parity at three apiece with some clutch doubling under intense scrutiny.
Lloyd squandered four match darts across a nail-biting seventh and deciding set and he was made to pay the price, as Van Barneveld kept his nerve to prevail with a 15-dart hold in a last-leg shootout, which laid the foundations for his iconic triumph against ‘The Power’ just days later.
Dave Chisnall vs Robert Thornton – 2016 Masters
Dave Chisnall produced arguably the greatest comeback in Masters history to stun Robert Thornton in their first round clash back in 2016. The St Helen’s star was facing the prospect of a humbling whitewash defeat as the Scot stormed into an 8-0 lead, before an astonishing reversal ensued.
‘Chizzy’ finally opened his account in leg nine which sparked a stunning sequence of six straight legs – featuring a 101 combination – as he reduced the arrears to 8-6. Thornton stopped the rot to move to the cusp of a quarter-final spot, but the drama didn’t end there.
‘The Thorn’ was punished for spurning three match darts in the latter stages, as Chisnall crashed in seven maximums to win the last four legs and complete the comeback. This inspired him through to the final a day later, where he succumbed to an irrepressible Van Gerwen.
Andy Hamilton vs Simon Whitlock – 2011 World Matchplay
Andy Hamilton’s success was built upon tenacity, determination and a never say die attitude, and all those attributes were evidenced in abundance as he came back off the canvas to humble a beleaguered Whitlock at the Winter Gardens in 2011.
The Australian appeared a virtual certainty to progress to the semi-finals after moving 15-8 ahead against the Stoke-on-Trent star – just one leg away from victory. Despite this, Hamilton did the unthinkable; reeling off nine consecutive legs to send the Blackpool crowd bonkers.
‘The Hammer’ was majestic in the closing stages, sealing the deal with a nerveless 94 finish on the bull. His fairy-tale run was curtailed by Phil Taylor in the semi-finals but this proved to be a turning point in his career, as he appeared in the World Championship final less than six months later.
James Wade vs Mervyn King – 2014 Masters
Mervyn King is yet to win a major PDC title and he won’t come much closer than he did in 2014. Having narrowly lost out to Paul Nicholson in the 2010 Players Championship Finals before relinquishing a 4-1 lead against MvG in the 2012 World Grand Prix final, this appeared to be King’s time.
‘The King’ claimed the scalp of Van Gerwen in the semi-finals and he was firmly in the ascendancy against ‘The Machine’, roaring into 5-0 and 9-2 leads. Nevertheless, having finished so proficiently throughout the event, King succumbed to the pressure and spurned EIGHT match darts.
Wade’s relentless nature came to the fore in a captivating finale and the left-hander remarkably claimed nine of the last ten legs to round-off a breathless 11-10 success, producing a sensational 135 checkout on tops to clinch the title, much to Mervyn’s bewilderment.
Raymond van Barneveld vs Michael Smith – 2016 World Championship
The doyen of Dutch darts was involved in countless classics throughout his career, particularly in the World Championship arena. RvB remarked in several interviews that it was ‘the only tournament that counts’ and as a consequence he was often a different animal over the festive period.
The 2016 World Championship was particularly memorable for the five-time world champion, who saw off a seemingly indomitable Michael van Gerwen in the third round. However, his last eight showdown against ‘Bully Boy’ was equally dramatic, as he overturned a three-set deficit to progress.
Barney fought back brilliantly from 3-0 down to lead 4-3, yet the pendulum swung once again as Smith forced a deciding set in which he led 2-0. The drama continued, as Van Barneveld – who converted FOUR 121 checkouts in a sensational display of finishing – won the final four legs to edge an epic.
Adrian Lewis vs James Wade – 2012 World Championship
The Alexandra Palace is renowned for producing pure sporting theatre and the 2012 World Championship semi-final tussle between Lewis and Wade will live long in the memory. With Wade leading 2-0 in sets, the players left the stage amid complaints from both men surrounding a breeze on stage.
The prolonged delay didn’t initially appear to have stifled Wade’s momentum as he stretched his lead to 5-1, until ‘The Machine’ misfired in spectacular fashion. The Aldershot ace missed one match dart at double 18 for a 6-2 success and incredibly he then failed to win another leg.
Lewis produced a dazzling spell of form as he reeled off ten legs without reply and secured the win with a roof-raising 161 finish. ‘Jackpot’ went on to defend his crown after seeing off his Stoke-on-Trent colleague Hamilton, whilst the sport’s biggest prize continues to elude Wade.
Peter Wright vs Gary Anderson – 2017 Grand Slam
World Cup partners Peter Wright and Gary Anderson have been involved in their fair share of classic encounters and the 2017 Grand Slam semi-final saw ‘Snakebite’ produce one of the finest comebacks in televised history, winning eight of the last nine legs to defeat his compatriot 16-15.
There was little to separate the pair in the early stages as Anderson held a slender 7-6 advantage, but ‘The Flying Scotsman’ stretched his cushion to 14-8 to close to within two legs of victory, courtesy of a blistering barrage of scoring and some clinical combination finishing.
Wright battled back with five straight legs to reduce the deficit to 14-13, although Anderson looked to have stemmed the tide to edge 15-13 in front. The colourful Scot refused to be beaten however, firing in back-to-back 11-darters to force a decider, where he nailed a nerveless 64 kill to triumph.
Rob Cross vs Daryl Gurney – 2019 World Matchplay
Rob Cross lifted his second major televised title at the Winter Gardens last summer, a scenario which scarcely seemed plausible when he trailed Daryl Gurney 14-7 in the semi-finals. Yet what followed was a fightback that will be etched into World Matchplay folklore.
‘Voltage’ was struggling for large periods of the contest, but a sequence of three straight legs gave him hope as he cut the arrears to 14-10. Gurney stopped the rot only to miss four darts at tops for a 16-10 advantage and Cross produced an incredible onslaught to level proceedings at 15-15.
Cross had won eight of the last nine legs and he wasn’t finished there. Gurney rattled in his 14th and 15th maximums of the contest in the final two legs but his woes on the outer-ring continued, as Cross held to move 16-15 ahead, before pinning double 16 to round-off a staggering success.
Scott Waites vs James Wade – 2010 Grand Slam
The cross-code aspect of the Grand Slam of Darts gives BDO players the opportunity to pit their wits against the PDC elite and two-time BDO world champion Scott Waites – now a PDC Tour Card holder – did that to great effect to lift the title in sensational style in 2010.
Waites was an outsider against world number two Wade, who was rampant in the early exchanges as he breezed into an 8-0 lead. The Yorkshireman had suffered a 16-2 drubbing against Phil Taylor in the 2009 final and history appeared to be repeating itself in Wolverhampton.
Yet out of nowhere Waites sparked into life to restore parity at 11-11 and a shell-shocked Wade capitulated, which allowed Waites to close out a famous 16-12 triumph. ‘Scotty 2 Hotty’ won 16 of the last 20 legs and he remains the solitary BDO representative to have clinched The Eric Bristow Trophy.