Gerwyn Price regained darts’ number one spot by reaching the semi-finals of the World Matchplay in Blackpool for the first time.
The ‘Iceman’ overcame Portugal’s Jose De Sousa 16-14 in a titanic tussle at the Winter Gardens to book a last-four date with Danny Noppert.
Price insisted this week that reclaiming the number one spot on the PDC’s order of merit was not top of his list of priorities in Blackpool.
But Peter Wright’s quarter-final defeat on Thursday opened a door that the Welshman walked right through – his growing confidence reflected by a tournament-best average of 104.64.
“I think it’s where I deserve to be,” Price said of his new world ranking on Sky Sports. “I believe I’m world number one.
“That was a difficult game to come through, but I think I deserved that extra shot at the end because I bombed numerous chances.”
Both players produced spectacular 160 checkouts in the first four legs.
Price comfortably outscored De Sousa in the opening two sessions but was unable to build momentum against his stubborn opponent.
The first 10 legs were shared – with neither player managing to go two clear at any point – despite Price averaging 103.63 to De Sousa’s 91.67.
De Sousa, nicknamed ‘The Special One’ like his fellow Portuguese Jose Mourinho, showed why he has that moniker with an 83 per cent doubles success.
Price, world champion in 2021 but never a Blackpool semi-finalist, piled on the pressure to win five of the next seven legs for a 10-7 lead.
The end appeared nigh as Price motored on for a 13-8 advantage.
But De Sousa – who ended up matching Price’s nine 180s – rattled off five legs abetted by the perfect combination of heavy scoring and clinical finishing.
Price dug deep and, although he missed the bullseye for a 16-13 success, he made no mistake on double eight after De Sousa had missed five shots to level the match.
Noppert beat fellow Dutchman Dirk van Duijvenbode 16-11 to also reach his first World Matchplay semi-final.
Both players hit 10 180s, but Noppert was the smarter finisher and kept his composure in the key moments.
The pair were partners at last month’s World Cup of Darts when the Netherlands made the semi-finals.
UK Open champion Noppert went to the first break 4-1 ahead, with Van Duijvenbode’s solitary respite being a brilliant 132 checkout and bullseye finish.
Van Duijvenbode stormed back to lead for the first time at 7-6, but Noppert grew stronger as the contest unfolded.
He stretched into a 12-9 lead and won the final four legs, sealing victory by taking out 121 on the bullseye.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.