Premier League Darts: Michael Smith back to his best in edging out Gerwyn Price in Leeds
Michael Smith was back to his best as he beat league leader Gerwyn Price 6-4 to claim his second nightly victory of this year's Cazoo Premier League on Thursday in Leeds.
Smith slipped out of the top four places for the first time since Night Two following his quarter-final loss to Price in Rotterdam last Thursday, but he delivered an emphatic riposte on Night 13 at a rowdy First Direct Arena.
The World Champion breezed through to his fifth weekly final of the campaign in comprehensive fashion, relinquishing just three legs as he saw off Chris Dobey and then Peter Wright.
Smith averaged 105 in his quarter-final demolition of Dobey, landing five 180s and threatening a nine-darter before wrapping up a 6-1 success.
The 2018 runner-up then punished a below-par display to rout Wright 6-2 in the semi-finals, crashing in another five 180s and sealing his progression with a spectacular 164 checkout.
This set up a showdown against league leader Price, but Smith avoided a third straight defeat against the Welshman, producing a stellar display to scoop the £10,000 winner's bonus in West Yorkshire.
The world number one fired in legs of 13 and 11 darts to race into a 2-0 lead, and while Price halved the deficit with a 12-dart hold in leg three, Smith maintained his two-leg buffer with successive holds.
Price conjured up an effortless 148 combination on tops to reduce the arrears to 4-3, although the St Helens star was undeterred, rounding off 13 and 14-dart legs in the latter stages to secure a precious five points.
"This was a big night for me," reflected Smith, who averaged 104 to topple Price and move four points clear of fifth-placed Jonny Clayton.
"If I had lost against Chris tonight, I think my top four chances would have been a bit bleak, so to come to Leeds and get five points, it feels massive.
"I just hope I can play like this every week. I only seem to do it when I need to. This is a learning curve for me.
"Three or four years ago I wouldn't have done that tonight. Now I'm able to fight and battle which you have to do when you're playing the best players in the world, like Gezzy.
"I showed what I can do. I had to fight for everything and luckily that got me over the line."
Price, meanwhile, extended his lead at the summit with wins over Jonny Clayton and Nathan Aspinall, reaching a seventh nightly final of 2023 to move four points clear of Michael van Gerwen in second spot.
The 38-year-old was imperious in his all-Welsh quarter-final against Clayton, averaging almost 111 to storm to a 6-2 success, which saw 2021 champion Clayton slip outside of the top four places.
Price continued his charge by avenging his defeat to Aspinall in last Thursday's Rotterdam final, capitalising on the Stockport star's doubling woes to emerge victorious in a scrappy affair.
Semi-finalists Wright and Aspinall departed Leeds with two points apiece, courtesy of quarter-final victories against Van Gerwen and Dimitri Van den Bergh respectively.
Wright produced arguably his performance of the season to defeat Van Gerwen 6-3 in his last eight tussle, reeling off three straight legs to end his four-match losing run against the Dutchman.
Elsewhere, Night 12 winner Aspinall overcame Van den Bergh for the second straight week, crashing in four maximums and converting a brace of ton-plus finishes to run out a 6-4 winner.
The Cazoo Premier League roadshow heads to Manchester's AO Arena for Night 14 next Thursday, as Price takes on reigning champion Van Gerwen in a battle of the league's top two.
Play-Off hopefuls Smith and Aspinall lock horns in a crucial clash, Clayton begins his bid for a third nightly win of the season against Wright, while Dobey and Van den Bergh also collide.
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