REIGNING champion Michael van Gerwen and 15-time winner Phil Taylor will clash in the 2016 BetVictor World Matchplay final on Sunday night, following their dominant semi-final defeats of Adrian Lewis and Gary Anderson.
World number one van Gerwen booked his place in a third successive Winter Gardens final by racing to a 17-9 win over Lewis in their last four contest to continue his bid to retain the title, pulling clear late on with five straight legs.
A superb start for the Dutchman saw him win the opening three legs without reply, including a 13-darter to break throw in the second, before Lewis hit back to level, landing scores of 177 and 174 along the way as he claimed three in a row.
Van Gerwen then produced a five-leg burst to move 8-3 up, with Lewis landing three 180s but being punished for missing tops in two legs as the Dutchman took command.
Lewis took the next two to respond, and also finished 130 on the bull in leg 16, while he bettered a 72 from van Gerwen with an 84 checkout to stay in touch at 12-8 before breaking in the next on double ten.
However, Lewis was punished in full for missed doubles in the next three, with van Gerwen taking out 103 in the process of moving 15-9 up, and the Dutchman landed his seventh and eighth 180s as he booked his place in the final.
"I'm in the final for the third year in a row and that means a lot to me," said van Gerwen. "I think I played okay - I was comfortable and did the right things at the right moments.
"I don't think Adrian gave me a good game. He tried to slow me down and it didn't work in his favour. He's got fantastic ability but I think he was scared and he made a mistake tonight.
"I know what I can do and I'm quite confident going into the final. I've not made many mistakes this week, but Phil has very high standards too. I'll be trying everything in my possibility to beat him."
Lewis conceded: "Doubles let me down, double top certainly and that's normally my favourite double. I've got the semi-finals playing my D-game, I've done a job to a certain extent but I've got to try and focus on the next event now."
Taylor, meanwhile, saw his challenge to capture a 16th World Matchplay crown to match his tally of World Championship wins peak with a ruthless 17-8 win over World Champion Anderson.
Although the pair shared the opening four legs, including a 140 finish from Anderson, the Stoke star claimed five in a row to move out to 7-2, following an 11-darter with a key 98 finish to punish misses from Anderson.
Taylor added another double 19 checkout as he moved 10-3 up, and though Anderson pulled back to trail 12-6 at one stage, misses in two of the next three saw the 15-time champion move nine legs clear.
Finishes of 76 and 72 from Anderson saw him briefly threaten a comeback, but a ninth 180 from Taylor helped set up a 12-dart leg as he took out 82 on tops to complete the triumph.
"Gary's a great player so I'm chuffed to win this, and I'm looking forward to the final now," said Taylor. "Gary doesn't back down, he's a back-to-back World Champion and deserves that, and the only way to beat him is not to miss against him.
"He was under pressure and missed a few doubles and I hit some 180s at the right time and took advantage. He didn't perform like he can tonight but I've been really focused this week and it's helped me."
A semi-final loser to James Wade 12 months ago, Taylor defeated van Gerwen 18-9 in the 2014 World Matchplay final to pick up his 15th title in Blackpool.
"It was be fantastic to win this again," he added. "It was a brilliant final two years ago and it's going to be great again. I will rise to the occasion and this is the best I've played for a while.
"I fancy my chances and Michael's in for a battle. I'm playing well and Michael isn't quite as brilliant as he normally is so I think it's a level game. If I get in front of him he might start to panic.
"It would be a massive a achievement and a thank-you for all the people that still believe I can win."
Anderson suffered defeat to Taylor in the semi-finals for the second time in three years, and admitted: "I'm quite happy with reaching the semi-finals because my record in Blackpool isn't great, but I missed a lot of darts at doubles tonight."
Van Gerwen enters the final as the 2/5 favourite with tournament sponsors BetVictor, with Taylor rated 2/1 to recapture the trophy on Sunday evening.
BetVictor are also offering 7/1 for either player to land a nine-dart finish, and 10/3 for one of the stars to hit a 170 checkout during the decider. For full odds, visit www.betvictor.com.
BetVictor World Matchplay
Saturday July 23
Michael van Gerwen 17-9 Adrian Lewis
Gary Anderson 8-17 Phil Taylor
Best of 33 legs
Sunday July 24 (7pm)
Michael van Gerwen v Phil Taylor
Best of 35 legs
Michael van Gerwen v Adrian Lewis
1-0 - van Gerwen scores three 140s as he claims the opening leg.
2-0 - The world number one lands a 180 before finishing tops for a 13-darter to break throw.
3-0 - van Gerwen initially misses the bull but returns to land double eight.
3-1 - Double eight sees Lewis get off the mark.
3-2 - Lewis lands a 177 to leave 24 before pinning double 12 to break throw and cut the gap to one leg.
3-3 - Lewis levels, hitting a 174 and finishing 70 on tops to win a third successive leg.
4-3 - van Gerwen edges back in front on double eight.
5-3 - Lewis lands a 180, but misses tops for a 118 checkout as van Gerwen steps in to land a third-dart double 16 for another break of throw.
6-3 - van Gerwen hits his second 180 before posting double 16 to complete another three-leg burst.
7-3 - Lewis opens with his second maximum, but a miss at tops allows van Gerwen in to finish 68 as he moves four legs clear.
8-3 - The pair trade 180s before van Gerwen takes out double 16.
8-4 - Lewis fires in a 174 to leave 16, and when van Gerwen misses tops the 2013 finalist steps in on double eight.
8-5 - van Gerwen misses a single 18 to leave the bull when on 88, and Lewis capitalises by hitting tops to break throw.
9-5 - Lewis misses tops to finish 70, and van Gerwen steps in to finish double nine to regain a four-leg lead.
10-5 - van Gerwen posts double 16 as he regains a five-leg advantage.
10-6 - van Gerwen wires the bull for a 170 finish, but Lewis is able to land the middle double as he takes out 130 to respond.
11-6 - van Gerwen opens with his fourth 180 before double ten restores his cushion.
11-7 - The reigning champion produces a 171 score, but Lewis is first to a double and pins tops to respond.
12-7 - van Gerwen once again kicks off a leg with a 180, and finishes 72 in two darts to edge away again.
12-8 - Lewis lands his fourth 180 before taking out 84 in two darts to reduce the gap to four legs.
12-9 - The pair trade 180s, and when van Gerwen misses two darts at double 16 the Stoke ace breaks throw on double ten to claim back-to-back legs.
13-9 - van Gerwen is given a let-off for a miss at tops when Lewis is unable to land double six for a 126 checkout, allowing the Dutchman back in on double ten to break.
14-9 - Lewis lands a 180, but is unable to break throw as van Gerwen receives a let-off again, this time returning on double nine to restore his five-leg lead.
15-9 - Lewis opens with another maximum, but misses a dart at tops and three at double ten before being punished with a huge 103 finish from van Gerwen, who moves two legs away from the win with another break of throw.
16-9 - van Gerwen fires in a 180 before taking out 81 for a 12-darer to move to the brink of a third successive Blackpool final.
17-9 - An eighth 180 for van Gerwen helps him to set up tops for a 13-darter as he completes the win.
Gary Anderson v Phil Taylor
0-1 - Taylor opens the game with a 180 before finishing a 13-darter on double ten.
1-1 - Anderson levels with a brilliant 140 finish.
1-2 - Taylor holds throw to regain the advantage.
2-2 - Anderson initially misses the bull, but returns on double 15.
2-3 - Taylor returns from two misses at tops to land double ten and regain the edge.
2-4 - Taylor lands a 180 as he breaks throw for the first time on double eight.
2-5 - Taylor produces scores of 171 and 177 before finishing double eight for an 11-darter.
2-6 - Anderson fires a 180 but is punished for failing to close out the route as Taylor finishes 98 on double 19 to break again.
2-7 - Taylor takes out 40 to win a fifth straight leg.
3-7 - The pair trade 180s before Anderson hits back with his first leg in six.
3-8 - Double five sees Taylor restore his advantage.
3-9 - Anderson misses tops, and Taylor finishes a 77 combination on the same bed for another break.
3-10 - Taylor opens with a 180 and Anderson lands a maximum in reply, but double 19 sees the 15-time World Matchplay champion move seven legs clear.
4-10 - Anderson responds by finishing 68 on tops to win his first leg in four.
4-11 - Taylor lands a 180 before finishing 60 on tops.
4-12 - Anderson opens with a 180, but misses the bull and two darts at double 12 to hit back as Taylor breaks throw for a fourth time on double eight.
5-12 - Anderson lands his sixth 180 before double six sees him claim his first break of the game.
6-12 - Taylor hits a 180 to leave 24, but misses three darts at double 12 before Anderson returns to land double five and continue his challenge.
6-13 - Taylor moves seven legs clear again, taking out 65 in two darts on tops.
6-14 - Taylor opens with his eighth 180, and when Anderson misses tops for a 107 finish the Stoke great finishes 64 on double eight to move three legs away from the win.
6-15 - Taylor misses tops but takes advantage of further misses from Anderson to return and move nine legs clear.
7-15 - Anderson hits a seventh 180 before finishing 76 to respond.
7-16 - Taylor lands a 177 to leave 24 before finishing double six to move a leg away from the win.
8-16 - Anderson finishes 72 on double 12 to keep his hopes alive.
8-17 - Taylor opens with 180 and 140 before taking out 82 on tops to secure his spot in the final - aiming for a 16th World Matchplay triumph.