Since the PDC’s inception back in 1992, we have witnessed countless classic showdowns involving the sport’s main protagonists and I’ve taken a trip down memory lane to reflect on ten of the best matches in PDC history.
There has been no shortage of options but I’ve chosen ten matches which featured a combination of outrageous quality and spectacular drama, although there were several thrillers that just missed out on selection.
Gary Anderson’s maiden World Championship triumph against Phil Taylor and Taylor’s 2004 nail-biter against Kevin Painter were two epics that just missed out on my top ten, although given the brilliance involved in all ten tussles, they are not ranked in any particular order.
Do you agree with my selections? Scroll down to discover my selections and please let me know your favourite PDC classics via the comments section. (Image Credits: Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
Rob Cross vs Michael van Gerwen – 2018 World Championship
The greatest game I’ve had the privilege of witnessing in the flesh. Cross enjoyed a sensational debut season on the PDC circuit which culminated with a fairy-tale triumph over the departing Taylor, although his semi-final success over the impregnable MvG was just as memorable.
The pair had been involved in several gripping encounters earlier in the year, but Van Gerwen just held the edge in the televised arena. Yet in their biggest showdown to date – ‘Voltage’ produced an electrifying display to stun the world number one in a match containing 31 maximums.
Both men averaged over 100 throughout and Cross progressed in a sudden-death shootout that concluded just after midnight, with MvG incredibly squandering five match darts earlier in the set. Both men had a match dart for three-figure combinations in the decider, but this was Cross’ time.
Phil Taylor vs Adrian Lewis – 2013 Grand Slam
The battle of the Stoke-on-Trent arrowsmiths at the 2013 Grand Slam was literally laughable, as Wayne Mardle and Rod Studd could attest to when they provided commentary on a tussle hailed as one of the greatest of all-time.
The 25-leg contest featured an astonishing 32 180’s – Lewis registering 18 of those maximums and averaging 110.99 to boot, yet he was still convincingly beaten by an irrepressible Taylor, who averaged 109.76 en route to scooping his fifth Grand Slam title.
Lewis led 8-7 at one stage, but Taylor dominated the second half of proceedings, winning nine of the final ten legs. It may not have provided a nail-biting climax, but it was an exhibition of darting brilliance throughout, and the sixth highest combined average recorded in a PDC match.
Peter Wright vs Raymond van Barneveld – 2017 UK Open
Wright has been one of the world’s premier players since 2014 but there were doubts about whether he’d translate his undoubted quality into major success until his 2017 UK Open triumph. ‘Snakebite’ achieved his darting destiny in Minehead and in doing so, played his part in an absolute classic.
Wright and Van Barneveld were the tournament favourites prior to being pitted against each other in the last eight and it was the colourful Scot that claimed the spoils in an exhilarating affair ridden with drama, running out a 10-8 winner with a 110.88 average to the Dutchman’s 108.10.
Just one of the 18 legs was won in over 15 darts such was the quality, although with Van Barneveld leading 8-7, the players were forced to take an impromptu break due to technical issues within the arena and upon their return, Wright surged to victory and the rest as they say, is history.
John Part vs Phil Taylor – 2003 World Championship
The first ever deciding set in a PDC World Championship final took place in 2003, as Part produced the performance of his career to deny ‘The Power’ a ninth consecutive world crown, becoming the first man outside of England to be crowned PDC world champion.
Taylor had whitewashed Part in the 2001 final and ‘Darth Maple’ was unsurprisingly a rank outsider with the bookmakers. However, the Canadian thrived on such occasions, displaying tenacity and composure in abundance to send shockwaves across the Circus Tavern.
Part stormed out of the traps to establish a 4-1 buffer, but his title dreams appeared in tatters as Taylor embarked on a sequence of 11 straight legs to lead 5-4. Despite this, Part battled back to force a decider, where he kept his cool and sank a 77 checkout on tops to create history.
Adrian Lewis vs Michael van Gerwen – 2013 World Matchplay
The Winter Gardens stage has played host to some classic encounters down the years and two of the game’s brightest stars served up one for the archives in a pulsating 2013 semi-final, with Lewis edging out Van Gerwen 17-15 in a game which oozed quality.
Lewis unleashed a devastating barrage of power scoring in the opening exchanges to secure the initiative, only for Van Gerwen to rally and take out a delightful 121 finish to move 15-14 ahead. Nevertheless, ‘Jackpot’ wasn’t to be denied.
The Stoke-on-Trent ace hammered in maximums in three successive legs to move to the cusp of victory, pinning double seven to prevail after MvG had wired double 13 for a 146 skin-saver. It had everything; 180’s aplenty, huge finishes, tangible tension and all whilst being played at an electric pace.
Raymond van Barneveld vs Michael van Gerwen – 2016 World Championship
Van Barneveld produced a multitude of magical moments throughout his career, although his 2016 success against the indomitable ‘Green Machine’ was pure sporting theatre; the legendary former champion rolling back the years against the current king of world darts.
The five-time world champion was completely written off ahead of his last 16 showdown against his younger compatriot, who was bidding to extend his 25-game winning televised run dating back to October, but Barney produced a heroic display to prevail in a seven-set classic.
Van Gerwen averaged 105.78 – then the highest losing average in World Championship history. Van Barneveld’s timing was impeccable however; he converted four ton-plus checkouts all at crucial junctures and his two-dart 96 kill to seal the deal sparked joyous celebrations from the fans’ favourite.
Michael van Gerwen vs Raymond van Barneveld – 2017 World Championship
Following their 2016 epic, the two Dutch darting dynamos locked horns 12 months later at Alexandra Palace, this time in the semi-finals. Whilst it may not have featured such a dramatic conclusion, in terms of quality it was indisputably the greatest game staged at the World Championship.
Van Barneveld sealed the first set without reply, taking out finishes of 107, 131 and 96 as he threatened to replicate his 2016 heroics, only for Van Gerwen to produce the greatest performance I’ve ever seen over such an elongated format, posting a record-breaking average of 114.05.
Barney averaged 109.34 and boasted a checkout success rate of 69% yet incredibly he was only afforded two sets by a merciless MvG, and it could be argued that Raymond was never the same player again. It was a display that defied belief from Van Gerwen – pure darting genius.
Phil Taylor vs James Wade – 2010 Premier League
The saying that ‘everything happens for a reason’ could not have been more poignant on this occasion. The 2010 Premier League final was postponed on May 23 due to a power cut at Wembley, yet just 24 hours later it was ‘The Power’ writing a chapter of darting history that may never be repeated.
The 16-time world champion landed not one but TWO nine-dart finishes in the same game to defeat Wade 10-8 and capture Premier League glory. This saw Taylor become the first man to land two perfect legs in the same match and he remains the only player to achieve this feat in a major tournament.
Having hit his second nine-darter, Taylor kicked off with seven perfect darts in the very next leg, although the hat-trick was not forthcoming. Yet despite averaging 111.67 he only edged out Wade by two legs, which was testament to the enduring quality and resolve of the nine-time major winner.
Gary Anderson vs Mensur Suljovic – 2018 World Matchplay
Anderson featured in several thrillers during the 2018 World Matchplay, although his gripping finale against Suljovic remains the greatest final staged at the Winter Gardens, as ‘The Flying Scotsman’ etched his name into the history-books with a breathless 21-19 success.
Anderson became just the third player in history to complete the coveted triple-crown, following in the footsteps of Taylor and Van Gerwen by adding to his World Championship and Premier League triumphs in the longest final in World Matchplay history.
Suljovic averaged 104.43 over 40 legs and crashed in 14 maximums, although remarkably it wasn’t enough. The Austrian recovered from 17-13 to force extra-time, but Anderson kept his cool, also landing 14 180’s and averaging over 101 to prevail in a Matchplay marathon.
Raymond van Barneveld vs Phil Taylor – 2007 World Championship
The 2007 World Championship final is widely regarded as the greatest game ever seen and it will take something extraordinary to usurp this classic, as Van Barneveld sealed his fifth World Championship crown in a sudden-death epic between two of the sport’s juggernauts.
It had all the makings of a dream final, but ‘The Power’ looked destined to run out an emphatic winner after claiming the opening three sets for the loss of just one leg. However, the doyen of Dutch darts produced an inspired comeback, firing in 21 maximums in a blistering barrage of scoring.
RvB’s revival was sparked by a stunning 170 checkout to wrap up the fourth set and as the pendulum swung back and forth, it went all the way to a sudden-death shootout. The pair traded maximums in a captivating finale, but it was Barney who triumphed to make his darting dreams come true.