MICHAEL VAN GERWEN produced a thrilling display to win his all-Dutch clash with Raymond van Barneveld in the Betway Premier League in Dublin on Thursday, as defeats for the reigning champion, Kim Huybrechts, Adrian Lewis, Peter Wright and Stephen Bunting kept the battle to avoid elimination running.
World number one van Gerwen's amazing year continued as he maintained his unbeaten start to the Premier League season with a sixth win in eight games, averaging an imperious 108.71.
Van Gerwen also missed double 12 for a nine-dart finish during an explosive start to the match as he took a 3-0 lead, and though van Barneveld showed his qualities to pull back to 4-2, a 160 checkout sealed victory for the league leader.
"It was a fantastic performance," said van Gerwen. "We both played really well and the only disappointing thing for me in the game was the nine-darter!
"The trebles are going in really well and that's more important than the double 12 and the nine-darter. I'm playing fantastic darts, and even though I can play better I am happy with this."
The defeat means that van Barneveld remains in the thick of an intriguing battle to avoid elimination, with the bottom two players in the league table following next week's Judgment Night in Manchester exiting the tournament.
Kim Huybrechts remains two points adrift of van Barneveld and Lewis at the foot of the table after he lost out 7-4 to Phil Taylor, who averaged 104.04 and replied from a 106 checkout from the Belgian to level in leg eight with three straight legs.
Huybrechts now faces a must-win clash with Bunting in Manchester on Judgement Night, although he was left to rue a slip in leg ten against Taylor when, needing 100, a single one with his first dart denied him the chance to draw level once again.
"Kim played pretty well and his finishing was good but he let me in when he missed that 100," admitted Taylor. "It was nip and tuck so I'm happy to have come out with the win.
"It was a tough game but I enjoyed it. I had a 104 average this week and won and a 115 average last week and lost, which doesn't make sense, but that's the game now and there were a lot of nerves on this week.
"I can relax next week now but I'm really looking forward to playing Dave Chisnall in Manchester."
Lewis remains on five points, alongside van Barneveld, following his 7-2 loss to Dave Chisnall as the 2014 Grand Slam of Darts finalist averaged just over 100 and finished half of his 14 darts a a double.
"I didn't happen for me tonight," said Lewis. "Double top let me down on a few occasions and double five pulled me out of the bag a couple of times, and it's difficult to deal with."
Chisnall said: "I'm happy with that. Adrian wasn't at his best and he missed a few doubles, but I capitalised on that - sometimes you need a bit of luck and timing, and today I had both of those.
"I've not played my best darts in the last couple of weeks but I put it right this week. I was confident that I could get the win and I managed to get the victory.
"I've done everything right in preparation and it paid off because once I got into the lead I didn't look back, and I can't wait for Manchester next week now."
Wright and Bunting sit only a point above van Barneveld and Lewis and remain under pressure going into Judgement Night following their defeats in Dublin.
Wright went down 7-3 to James Wade, with the 2009 champion taking out 124 as he took a 3-0 lead before pulling clear from 4-3 up to seal the win.
"Peter's had some really good results in the last few weeks and I was expecting more from him but he wasn't at his best and I'm very happy to have won that game," said Wade.
"These are the hard games to win, when things are going as they were tonight. I hit double five with my last dart a couple of times and those darts are harder to hit than a double to win a TV title. Every single leg was a battle.
"It's two very important points for me, as they would have been for Peter, and I think it was a bad day at the office for him. I was the one lucky enough to get the result and I'll just move on to the next game."
Bunting, meanwhile, was a 7-4 loser against Gary Anderson, who took out 152 and 134 in the early stages before coming from 4-3 down to reel off four straight legs and take the points to remain second in the table.
"Stephen did quite well and I made a mess of a couple of legs there but it's a good win," said Anderson. "Stephen could have won that game but I used to give games like that away and I'll take that one.
"It's a learning curve for Stephen playing in front of great crowds like this, and this is one of the best arenas in the world of darts so to get two points here is great.
"I'm going alright - to be second is good because I've been in the bottom two a few times before so I can relax on Judgement Night next week!"
Judgement Night in Manchester next week sees Lewis face Wright and Huybrechts take on Bunting in two huge clashes, while van Barneveld's defence of the title will hinge on the result of his clash with World Champion Anderson.
Tickets for the Betway Premier League Judgement Night at The Manchester Arena are still available and can be purchased by calling 0844 847 8000 or online via www.eventim.co.uk.
Betway Premier League
Night Eight, Thursday March 26
Adrian Lewis 2-7 Dave Chisnall
Gary Anderson 7-4 Stephen Bunting
Peter Wright 3-7 James Wade
Michael van Gerwen 7-2 Raymond van Barneveld
Phil Taylor 7-4 Kim Huybrechts
REVISED ORDER OF PLAY FOR JUDGEMENT NIGHT
Judgement Night, Thursday April 2
The Manchester Arena
Michael van Gerwen v James Wade
Phil Taylor v Dave Chisnall
Stephen Bunting v Kim Huybrechts
Adrian Lewis v Peter Wright
Gary Anderson v Raymond van Barneveld
Tickets: 0844 847 8000 or www.eventim.co.uk
Adrian Lewis v Dave Chisnall
1-0 - Lewis is first to a finish and initially misses five darts at doubles before double five gives him the opening leg.
1-1 - Chisnall lands a 180 but misses double 18 for a 106 finish - but Lewis wires the bull for an 87 checkout to break to allow his opponent to return on double nine.
1-2 - Chisnall returns on double ten to secure a break of throw.
1-3 - Chisnall posts double ten once again to move two legs clear.
2-3 - Chisnall fires in a 180, but Lewis replies with his first maximum of the night to leave 20 before hitting back on double five.
2-4 - A 107 finish, ended on double 14, sees Chisnall regain his cushion.
2-5 - Chisnall claims a second break of throw, posting a 180 before finishing double top for a 12-darter.
2-6 - Lewis fires in another maximum, but misses three darts at double top to allow Chisnall in to secure a point.
2-7 - The pair trade 180s, but Chisnall is first to a finish and returns from two misses at double 12 to land double six to claim the win - deepening Lewis' elimination worries ahead of Judgement Night next week.
Gary Anderson v Stephen Bunting
1-0 - Anderson takes out a brilliant 152 finish to win the opening leg.
1-1 - Anderson misses his chance to break throw, allowing Bunting in on double tops to level.
1-2 - Bunting breaks throw as he edges ahead.
2-2 - Anderson takes out 302 in six darts, scoring 168 to leave 134 before finishing the combination with a classy treble 18 and two double tops.
2-3 - Bunting breaks again, trading 180 with the World Champion before finishing 88 on double 14.
2-4 - Bunting finishes 68 on double 16 as he moves two legs clear.
3-4 - Bunting lands a maximum, but Anderson lands a third-dart double 18 to hit back.
4-4 - The Scot fires in his fourth 180 of the game before double four breaks Bunting's throw to level.
5-4 - Bunting misses four darts at doubles to win the leg against the throw, with Anderson recovering from earlier misses by landing double one to move back ahead.
6-4 - Both players initially miss a double to end a 113 combination, but Anderson returns on tops to seal a point.
7-4 - Anderson initially misses a dart a ttops, but Bunting is unable to finish 94 to allow his opponent back in to claim the win with a fifth straight leg.
Peter Wright v James Wade
0-1 - Wade secures an immediate breaks of throw
0-2 - Wade finishes 124 to double his advantage.
0-3 - Wright misses double 16 as Wade steps in on tops to continue his perfect finishing.
1-3 - Wade misses the bull for a 170 finish and then sees another four darts at doubles land off-target as Wright returns - after missing double 12 for a 141 finish - to post double six.
2-3 - Wade this time misses two darts at double 12 to break throw, as Wright is handed a let-off for his missed doubles as he returns on double four.
2-4 - Wright misses the bull to take out 161 and also sees a further two darts to win the leg go astray as Wade returns to, finally, claim the leg on double five.
3-4 - Wade is punished for missed doubles as Wright reduces the gap to one leg.
3-5 - Wade finishes 61 on tops to regain his range on the doubles.
3-6 - Tops moves the left-hander a leg away from the win.
3-7 - Double five seals the victory for Wade.
Michael van Gerwen v Raymond van Barneveld
1-0 - The duo trade 180s in the opening leg and also each miss the bull before van Gerwen returns on double eight for a 14-darter.
2-0 - MICHAEL VAN GERWEN MISSES DOUBLE 12 FOR A NINE-DART FINISH! The Dutchman, for the eighth time in 2015, lands eight perfect darts, with two 180s and a treble 20 and treble 19, only to miss the final double of a perfect leg, but returns to finish double six for a ten-dart finish.
3-0 - van Gerwen lands his fourth 180 of the game before punishing two misses at double 16 from the reigning champion to finish double two to win a third leg.
3-1 - van Barneveld fires in a 168 score on his way to his first leg, landing tops.
4-1 - van Gerwen opens with 140 and 180 before finishing 84 for an 11-darter.
4-2 - van Gerwen fires in a sixth 180, but van Barneveld lands double nine to hit back.
5-2 - Double eight sees van Gerwen restore his three-leg lead.
6-2 - van Gerwen lands an eighth 180 of the game before posting tops to secure a point which retains his unbeaten status.
7-2 - van Gerwen completes a sensational win by taking out 160, ending the game with a superb 108.71 average to keep the reigning champion in danger of elimination on Judgement Night.
Phil Taylor v Kim Huybrechts
0-1 - Huybrechts opens a hugely important game by breaking throw to win the opening leg.
1-1 - Taylor finishes double ten to break back and level.
2-1 - Taylor lands a maximum as he edges ahead.
2-2 - Huybrechts responds in kind as he squares the game.
3-2 - Taylor finishes double seven as he moves back into the lead.
3-3 - Taylor fires in his third 180 of the game, but misses double 16 to finish 142 to allow Huybrechts in to take out 62 on double eight.
4-3 - Taylor finishes 48 on double 16 as he regains the lead.
4-4 - The pair trade 180s before Huybrechts takes out a fine 106 finish on double 18.
5-4 - Taylor takes out 68 as he moves back ahead in the contest.
6-4 - The game takes a turn as Huybrechts, needing 100, hits a single one with his first dart to deny himself a chance of finishing, and Taylor takes out 74 on double 16 to secure a minimum of a point.
7-4 - Double 16 seals victory for Taylor, as he ends the game with a 104.04 average.