Van Gerwen was the headline attraction on Day 11 at Alexandra Palace, and the three-time World Champion survived a major scare against Suljovic, despite posting a stunning 107.66 average and landing a dozen 180s. The Dutchman came through a gripping opening stanza with a 110 average, before recovering from 2-0 down in set two to double his lead, reeling off three straight legs in 37 darts courtesy of 101, 81 and 64 finishes. Suljovic maintained his ton-plus average to halve the deficit in set three and despite Van Gerwen's sustained brilliance, the Austrian appeared poised to level at 2-2 until the Dutchman fired in a superb 12-darter to move 3-1 ahead. The fifth set also went the distance, and after Van Gerwen refused the option of going for the bull on a 121 combination to complete a 4-1 success, Suljovic conjured up an astonishing 161 skin-saver to reduce the arrears to 3-2. However, the Austrian was punished for spurning three darts at double to hold throw midway through set six, and Van Gerwen took full advantage, pinning double four before crashing in a 14-darter to close out a classic. "For a good game, you need two good dart players. I think Mensur was phenomenal and he deserves a lot of credit," said Van Gerwen, who will play Dirk van Duijvenbode or Ross Smith for a place in the last eight. "I feel really comfortable, I feel good, and to win the way I did, that gives me extra motivation and confidence. "If you want to win this tournament you have to battle through all circumstances and it gives me pleasure winning games like this. There could only be one winner and that was me luckily." Elsewhere, two-time World Championship runner-up Smith fought back from 3-1 down to edge out Schindler in a seven-set thriller, defying ten 180s from the diminutive German to preserve his title hopes.
Wednesday December 28m, afternoon session
Jose de Sousa 4-3 Ryan Searle (1-3, 2-3, 1-3, 3-2, 3-2, 3-1, 3-1)
Alan Soutar 4-2 Danny Noppert (1-3, 0-3, 3-1, 3-0, 3-1, 3-0)
Chris Dobey 4-1 Gary Anderson (0-3, 3-2, 3-2, 3-2, 3-1)
Schindler drew first blood with a ton-plus average, but a sensational 170 checkout from Smith - the second of the tournament - helped the St Helens star restore parity at one set apiece. The German was undeterred, regaining the initiative with an 11-darter to clinch set three, and he followed that up with an 84 finish and a 128 on the bull to move a set away from a landmark victory. However, Smith - a winner at last month's Grand Slam of Darts - underlined his credentials with a superb fightback, following up a 72 skin-saver in set five with a 114 checkout which turned the tide in the sixth.
Joe Cullen 4-0 Damon Heta (3-2, 3-1, 3-2, 3-0)
Michael van Gerwen 4-2 Mensur Suljovic (3-2, 3-2, 1-3, 3-2, 2-3, 3-1)
Michael Smith 4-3 Martin Schindler (2-3, 3-0, 2-3, 1-3, 3-2, 3-1, 3-1)
Schindler continued to battle valiantly, but Smith's experience paid dividends in the closing stages, as a clutch 83 combination and a 13-dart hold on tops catapulted the fourth seed through. "I can't really put it into words. I'm proud of myself for the way I came back," said Smith, who averaged 95 and converted two ton-plus finishes to keep his hopes of lifting the Sid Waddell Trophy alive. "I've not been at my best. I know I've got so much more to give. I know I'm playing well, I know my game is there, it's just not come out yet.
Thursday December 29, afternoon session
Dirk van Duijvenbode v Ross Smith
Rob Cross v Mervyn King
Dave Chisnall v Stephen Bunting
"You have got to show your character and I have had to do that twice now. You need to get over these scares to hopefully win the event." Smith will now take on Cullen in a blockbuster last 16 showdown, after the Masters champion produced a demolition job against World Cup winner Damon Heta - closing out a 4-0 win to equal his best showing at the World Championship. Cullen produced superb 177 and 180 set-up shots to win the opening two sets, and after converting a clinical 108 combination to wrap up set three, he followed up a two-dart 97 kill with an 11-darter to cap off a classy display.
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
Luke Humphries v Vincent van der Voort (R3)
Gerwyn Price v Jose de Sousa (R4)
Jonny Clayton v Josh Rock (R4)
"I thought I played the big legs really, really well," said Cullen, who also defeated Heta at the World Matchplay and the World Grand Prix earlier this year. "I've gained a lot more experience, particularly in the big legs. I don't think it was a 4-0 game, but I think I was a worthy winner regardless of the scoreline. "Damon put on a great performance against Adrian [Lewis in round two] and he's a fantastic player, but I confident going into tonight's game given my record against him."
Friday December 30, afternoon session
Kim Huybrechts v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Gabriel Clemens v Alan Soutar
Michael Smith v Joe Cullen
Earlier in the day, Chris Dobey condemned his former mentor Gary Anderson to his earliest defeat at the World Championship since 2014, reeling off four straight sets to complete a resounding 4-1 success over the two-time Ally Pally winner. Anderson made a blistering start, firing in back-to-back 12-darters to clinch the opening set with a 116 average, only for Dobey to level after the Scot squandered three darts to double his lead. Dobey - who was beaten by Anderson in a World Championship classic back in 2018 - held his nerve to win three consecutive sets in deciding legs to move to the cusp of glory, and legs of 12, 16 and 15 darts in set five sealed the deal.
Rob Cross/Mervyn King v Chris Dobey
Michael van Gerwen v Dirk van Duijvenbode/Ross Smith
Luke Humphries/Vincent van der Voort v Dave Chisnall/Stephen Bunting
"It means a lot. Gary is a legend of the game," reflected Dobey, who will now jump above Anderson on the Order of Merit following this year's tournament. "Obviously playing Gary a few years ago here, that was still on my mind, and I wanted that revenge on him. "I've been working really hard on my finishing lately and every chance he gave me I took, so I'm delighted to get that big win." Meanwhile, in Wednesday's opener, Jose de Sousa produced another spirited fightback to reach the last 16 for the first time, recovering from 3-0 down to dump out Ryan Searle in a dramatic seven-set battle. De Sousa - who fought back from 2-0 down against Simon Whitlock in round two - displayed further brinkmanship to secure a place in round four, despite missing 43 darts at double. Searle punished the Portuguese star's profligacy to establish a commanding cushion, but he was left to rue missing one match dart at tops for a 4-1 victory, as De Sousa battled back from the brink to set up a showdown against top seed Gerwyn Price. Alan Soutar also produced a stirring fightback to dump out UK Open champion Danny Noppert in an extraordinary tussle, winning 12 of the last 13 legs to reach the last 16 for a second straight year. Noppert made an imperious start to establish a two-set lead with a 102 average, although Soutar came roaring back, reeling off six straight legs to draw level. The Scot continued his charge with a stunning 152 checkout to wrap up a crucial fifth set, before following up a 12-darter early in set six with a brilliant 130 checkout to complete a famous win. Thursday's action will see the remaining third round ties take place, with 2018 World Champion Rob Cross and fifth seed Luke Humphries among the names in action. World number one Price then kicks off the last 16 action against De Sousa on Thursday evening, before Jonny Clayton and World Youth Champion Josh Rock lock horns for a place in the quarter-finals.
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