Michael Smith produced another inspired display to end Gerwyn Price’s reign as world champion, defying a stunning nine-darter from the world No 1 to prevail 5-4 in an epic quarter-final.
Smith, who came out on top in a tie-break against Jonny Clayton in the last-16, dumped out another Welshman to reach his second semi-final at Alexandra Palace, where world No 4 James Wade awaits.
Price played his part in a classic contest, but he was left to rue two missed match darts in the penultimate set, as Smith kept his cool to move two games away from fulfilling his darting destiny.
‘The Iceman’ drew first blood in a tight opening set courtesy of a 13-dart hold, but a trio of 15-dart legs saw the St Helen’s star level up proceedings with a clean sweep in set two.
Price regained the initiative with clinical 125 and 130 finishes in the third, before achieving perfection in set four – landing his first televised nine-darter and the third of this year’s tournament – a new World Championship record.
Nevertheless, Price still lost the set after Smith averaged 121.33 to win it and square proceedings at two apiece, before a nerveless 108 checkout in the fifth set saw the reigning champion regain the initiative at 3-2.
Smith, who landed 16 180s in a sensational display of scoring, stormed to the sixth set with a 118 average to restore parity yet again, but Price appeared undeterred, coming from behind in the seventh to seal it with a 74 kill on tops.
The eighth set also went the distance and Price appeared poised to wrap up a 5-3 success courtesy of leaving 42 after just nine darts, yet after frittering away match darts at tops and tens, he could only watch as Smith pinned double eight to force a deciding set.
‘Bully Boy’ had the momentum, evidenced by an immediate break of throw, and a majestic 126 checkout on the bullseye moved him to the cusp of a famous victory.
The world No 1 held throw to stay alive, but missed tops for a 110 finish in what proved to be the final leg, as Smith nailed double 12 to cap off another Alexandra Palace classic.
Wright edges out Rydz in nine-set stormer
Peter Wright fired in an astonishing 17 maximums as he fought back from 2-0 down to defeat Callan Rydz, who produced the performance of his life in the biggest match of his career.
Rydz had relinquished the solitary set in reaching the last eight, including whitewash wins over Brendan Dolan and Nathan Aspinall, and he made a blistering start to leave Snakebite stunned.
‘The Riot’ lived up to his nickname in the opening exchanges, kicking off the contest with a sparkling 152 checkout, and wrapping up set one with a 94 combination on tops.
The 23-year-old remarkably reeled in a trio of ton-plus finishes to double his cushion, following up a brace of 106 checkouts with an effortless 105 on tops.
Wright responded – a crucial 112 outshot midway through set three helped him reduce the arrears, but Rydz was unfazed, converting a nerveless 97 on double 10 en route to restoring his two-set advantage.
The world No 2 underlined his credentials with a dominant fifth set – a spectacular 140 finish with two double tops was bookmarked by a sumptuous 11-darter, before a dramatic sixth set ensued.
After the opening two legs of the set were shared, Wright missed double 12 for an astonishing nine-darter – which would have been the third of the competition – before Rydz ironically replied with a 141 kill to level it.
The 2020 champion had the last laugh however, conjuring up a wonderful 96 checkout via double 18 and tops to restore parity at three apiece, after the young Geordie had frittered away a dart at tops for a 4-2 lead.
To his immense credit, the 23-year-old regained the initiative following a dramatic conclusion to set seven, which featured six missed darts at double from Wright, but the second seed was undeterred.
The 51-year-old raced to set eight without reply, before extending his winning sequence to five legs to move 2-0 ahead in the decider, but Rydz rallied yet again to force a tie-break.
Nevertheless, experienced paid dividends for the world No 2, and despite Rydz’ resistance, Wright eventually sealed the deal with a 99.90 average to set up a showdown with his World Cup partner Gary Anderson.
Anderson marches on at Alexandra Palace
Anderson remains on course to land a third World Championship crown, closing out a 5-2 victory over Luke Humphries to reach his seventh semi-final at Alexandra Palace – his sixth in eight years.
The scoreline didn’t quite tell the story, with ‘The Flying Scotsman’ only running out a 16-15 winner in legs, but the two-time world champion produced the goods when it mattered to dump out the former World Youth champion.
Humphries raced through the first set in a matter of minutes to draw first blood, but Anderson overcame early double-trouble to seize the initiative and lead 2-1.
‘Cool Hand’ responded with legs of 15, 14 and 14 darts to restore parity at two apiece, but the crucial moment came in a fifth set decider, when Anderson converted a nerveless 110 combination with Humphries poised on D4 for a 3-2 lead.
‘The Flying Scotsman’ kicked off set six with a sublime 148 checkout and although Humphries responded to force another set decider, the sixth seed again came out on top, pinning double 11 after surviving a set dart.
Humphries looked to be on the verge of reducing the arrears in set seven, but after Anderson registered a fourth ton-plus finish, courtesy of a 108 kill, he punished three missed set darts from the UK Open runner-up to seal the deal with an 80 finish on tops.
Wade breezes through with whitewash win over King
In Saturday’s opening quarter-final, Wade stormed through to his fourth World Championship semi-final with a resounding whitewash win over Mervyn King.
King squandered two darts to claim the opening set and he never truly recovered, as Wade delivered a typically efficient display to book his spot in the last four.
‘The Machine’ was nowhere near his vintage best, but he registered his first maximums of the tournament en route to victory, averaging 86.5 and landing four 180’s to dethrone ‘The King’.
Image Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2021/22 William Hill World Darts Championship
Schedule of Play
Saturday January 1
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT)
James Wade 5-0 Mervyn King (3-2, 3-2, 3-1, 3-2, 3-1)
Gary Anderson 5-2 Luke Humphries (0-3, 3-2, 3-1, 1-3, 3-2, 3-2, 3-2)
Evening Session (1930 GMT)
Peter Wright 5-4 Callan Rydz (0-3, 2-3, 3-1, 1-3, 3-1, 3-2, 1-3, 3-0, 4-2)
Michael Smith 5-4 Gerwyn Price (2-3, 3-0, 2-3, 3-1, 1-3, 3-0, 2-3, 3-2, 3-1)
Sunday January 2 (1930 GMT)
Michael Smith v James Wade
Peter Wright v Gary Anderson