RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD created the longest winning run of the 2017 Betway Premier League as he swept past James Wade in Cardiff on Thursday, where Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson and Phil Taylor also picked up two points.
Dutch star Van Barneveld, the 2014 Premier League champion, has risen into the top four with his recent run of form to claim three straight wins, and continued that with a ruthless display against Wade.
Van Barneveld limited Wade to just one dart at a double as he won the opening five legs without reply, before the left-hander finished 36 and 70 to take two of the next three.
However, the Dutchman - who had claimed his sixth leg with a superb 12-darter - took the ninth on double seven to secure another two points in his bid to secure a Play-Off spot in May.
"That's four wins on the trot so I'm very happy," said Van Barneveld. "It's so tight in the league table so I had to focus and you have to play well against everyone.
"James didn't play as well as he could and I was surprised at that but I'm happy with the win."
Reigning Premier League champion Van Gerwen returned to the top of the table with an impressive 7-1 win over Dave Chisnall, averaging 104.25 and hitting 50 percent of his darts at a double.
The Dutchman had lost his first game of the season a week ago against Van Barneveld, but showed no mercy as he defied five 180s from Chisnall with a dominant display.
"I had to play well tonight and I'm happy that I did," said Van Gerwen. "The pressure was on me because I want to be back on top of the table where I belong and where I've worked hard for.
"When you lose a game, like last week, you're upset but tonight I enjoyed it again. I'm a happy man and I'm already looking forward to next week."
Two-time Premier League winner Anderson hit finishes of 143 and 170 in a superb 7-3 win over Adrian Lewis, averaging 107 as he came from 2-1 down to claim his third win in four games.
"I didn't think the performance was as good as the average, but I'll take it!" said Anderson. "There were some good scores and some bad scores - the 170 felt like it came from nowhere and I took out the 143 too.
"We all want to get into the Play-Offs. When the tournament starts you don't want to be in the bottom two, and once you get past tonight it's a fight for the top four and everyone's trying for it."
Six-time Premier League champion Taylor also had to come from behind before he saw off Jelle Klaasen 7-5 in a deciding leg.
Klaasen - who had been eliminated before his ninth league match - raced into an early 4-1 lead before Taylor, aided by an 11-darter, turned the game around to claim his second successive win.
"It's another two points for me and they could all prove crucial at the end of the season," said Taylor. "It could prove the difference for getting into the Play-Offs - if I'd lost I think I'd have struggled to qualify.
"I think Jelle's injury affected him, at the beginning he was faring well but during the game he was struggling and he wasn't the same player. Fair play to him, it must be very frustrating but he's battled on."
The night had seen just eight players in action, with Kim Huybrechts - who had already been eliminated - absent to remain in Belgium with his terminally ill mother, meaning that Peter Wright was awarded a 7-0 victory in his intended opponent's absence.
"All our thoughts are with Kim and his family," said Wright, who made an appearance on stage in front of the sell-out Cardiff crowd before the event and signed autographs for fans.
"You have a fantastic crowd in Cardiff, the atmosphere is amazing and I'm gutted that I'm not playing. I was looking forward to trying to win tonight but unfortunately I've got to get back on the practice board."
The Betway Premier League continues with the visit to Dublin's 3Arena next Thursday, as the second phase of the season begins with five games.
Betway Premier League
Night Nine - Thursday March 30
Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
Phil Taylor 7-5 Jelle Klaasen
Gary Anderson 7-3 Adrian Lewis
Raymond van Barneveld 7-2 James Wade
Michael van Gerwen 7-1 Dave Chisnall
NB: Peter Wright awarded 7-0 win following Kim Huybrechts' withdrawal.
KIM HUYBRECHTS and Jelle Klaasen were eliminated from the Betway Premier League on Thursday with defeats in Manchester, as Michael van Gerwen moved to the top of the league table before seeing his unbeaten run ended.
With the bottom two players in the Premier League table eliminated following next week's night in Cardiff - when the players have each met once - defeats for Huybrechts and Klaasen left them three points adrift of Dave Chisnall.
The pair will now exit the tournament as the remaining eight players begin their battle for the Play-Offs next month.
Belgian ace Huybrechts was defeated 7-2 by Gary Anderson, as the Scot hit checkouts of 130, 104 and 132 to boost his own Premier League challenge with a third win of the season.
"I needed the win and it's a good two points," said Anderson. "There was some good scoring and I hit a few good finishes there.
"Kim has played very well and just not had that little bit of luck, he could have won against Michael and against Phil Taylor, so it could have been different for him."
Klaasen, meanwhile, went down 7-5 to Adrian Lewis as the Stoke star won his third successive game, twice pulling clear after the Dutchman levelled before inflicting his opponent's sixth loss of the season.
"I've had three wins on the trot and you can't argue with that," said Lewis. "It was a tough game and a vital two points. I'm trying my best at the minute and I'm playing well in patches."
Reigning Premier League champion Van Gerwen doubled up in Manchester after missing the league night in Exeter three weeks ago with a back injury, and enjoyed a mixed evening.
The Dutchman firstly moved to the top of the league table with a 7-4 win over James Wade in the night's opening match to extend his unbeaten run in televised matches to a new record of 44 games.
A high-quality game saw the opening eight legs shared, but the 2009 champion crucially missed the bull to break in leg nine as Van Gerwen landed a third-dart double one, before breaking with the aid of six perfect darts and then taking out 120 for the win.
Van Gerwen later returned to the stage but suffered defeat in a televised game for the first time since last September as an inspired Van Barneveld took a 7-5 triumph to move himself into the top three.
Van Gerwen battled back from 3-0 down to lead 4-3 - taking out a key 108 in the process - but a slip in the eighth allowed van Barneveld to wrestle back the advantage with three straight legs.
Double 14 saw Van Gerwen pull back to 6-5 and force a decider, but the 2014 champion took out 70 to claim his third successive win and a precious victory over his Dutch rival.
"I'm top of the table and that's where I think I belong, but I'm disappointed because I wanted to be on 14 points and not 12," said Van Gerwen.
"Raymond took his chances and hit some good finishes, but this was my worst game of the season.
"When I was 3-0 down I got into my rhythm, but I missed some crucial shots - especially when I went 4-3 up - and you can't afford to make any mistakes."
Van Barneveld had missed double 12 for a nine-dart finish as he moved 3-0 up in the win, and said: "Michael's the best player at the moment and if you can beat him that's fantastic.
"I'm happy with the win, it's amazing. You can see how tight the league table is and I'm the first player to beat Michael in the Premier League this season - I showed that he is beatable.
"Last week in Rotterdam I played the number two in the world, Gary Anderson, and tonight it was the world number one and I got four points."
Six-time Premier League champion Taylor bounced back from two successive defeats by edging out Peter Wright 7-5, with the UK Open champion hitting a 156 checkout but paying the price for 12 other missed doubles.
"It's a massive win for me," said Taylor. "It was a strange game - we've both missed plenty of doubles, but his 156 was incredible and I thought he was going to come back and get a draw.
"He seems to do things under pressure like Michael van Gerwen does, he's a brilliant player and I think he's going to get stronger, but on the night he wasn't as good as he normally is.
"I'm not going to worry and I won't put myself under pressure - I'd love to get in the top four but I'm going to keep pushing and I just want to keep enjoying it."
The Betway Premier League continues at a sold-out Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff next Thursday, where Klaasen bows out against Taylor and Huybrechts meets Wright.
Van Gerwen takes on Chisnall - who sat out the night in Manchester after doubling up in Exeter - while Van Barneveld plays Wade and Anderson faces Lewis.
Betway Premier League
Night Eight - Thursday March 23
The Manchester Arena
Michael van Gerwen 7-4 James Wade
Kim Huybrechts 2-7 Gary Anderson
Peter Wright 5-7 Phil Taylor
Jelle Klaasen 5-7 Adrian Lewis
Raymond van Barneveld 7-5 Michael van Gerwen
RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD and Michael van Gerwen thrilled the 10,000-strong Dutch crowd with victories as the Betway Premier League visited Rotterdam on Thursday, where Peter Wright retained his advantage at the top of the table.
Five-time World Champion Van Barneveld was spurred on by the incredible reception he received at Rotterdam Ahoy as he defeated Gary Anderson 7-2.
Van Barneveld hit 180s in the opening three legs as he took a 3-0 lead and also finished a sensational 156 checkout and a ten-darter on his way to a third win of the season.
The victory also moved the 2014 Premier League champion up to fourth in the league table above Anderson, for whom a 108 finish was not enough.
"It was massive for me, a brilliant night," said Van Barneveld, who emotionally addressed the Rotterdam crowd afterwards. "Gary has beaten me the last 11 times, but I kept believing in myself and tonight everything went well.
"I was finishing well, and in the end a 7-2 result against the world number two is a big effort. Gary's hard to beat and a tough competitor but I know I can beat anyone.
"To play in front of your home crowd means a lot and I didn't want to let them down. I'm really happy with this victory and I believe I can make the Play-Offs."
World Champion Van Gerwen was also given a heroes' welcome as he took to the stage in his homeland, and he overcame a slow start to defeat Phil Taylor 7-4.
Taylor hit finishes of tops, 96 and 73 as he opened up a 3-0 lead, but van Gerwen clawed his way back level before finishing 82 and 78 to assume command.
Taylor hit back in leg nine, but the Dutchman was not to be denied as he picked up a fourth win of the season to remain second in the table ahead of his double-header in Manchester next week.
"It was difficult and it was a different kind of pressure for me tonight," said Van Gerwen. "You want to give the fans something back and maybe we both didn't play as well as we could.
"I got the job done and won, which was the most important thing."
World number three Wright remains a point clear of Van Gerwen at the top of the league table following his 7-4 win over Dave Chisnall.
Wright - whose orange mohawk matched the majority of the 10,000-strong sell-out crowd at the Ahoy arena - took leads of 2-0 and 5-2 before denying Chisnall any hope of a fightback.
Wright said: "It wasn't a great performance but it's two points and you'll take that against Dave because he's a powerful scorer.
"The crowd were amazing and it was fantastic to play in front of a crowd like that because I loved it. It was incredible when they sang my name - it's a shame I didn't put on more of a show for them but I got the win."
James Wade temporarily silenced the Dutch crowd in the night's opening game with a 7-3 win over bottom-placed Jelle Klaasen, who is now facing elimination in a fortnight.
Wade took an early 2-0 lead to take control, and mid-range checkouts of 76, 82, 64 and 71 helped the left-hander maintain his own push for a Play-Off place.
"Jelle didn't play as he can, and if you give me a little sniff I'll have the lot," said Wade. "It's nice to be British in Holland and win!"
Klaasen now sits three points adrift at the foot of the table alongside Kim Huybrechts after the Belgian's 7-3 loss to Adrian Lewis, whose second successive win eases his worries of being drawn into the elimination battle.
The Betway Premier League continues at The Manchester Arena next Thursday, with Van Gerwen playing twice to make up his game in hand after being forced to miss the visit to Exeter a fortnight ago with a back injury.
The world number one plays Wade and Van Barneveld in Manchester, while Anderson faces Huybrechts, Wright meets Taylor and Klaasen takes on Lewis, with Chisnall sitting out the night after playing twice in Exeter.
Betway Premier League
Night Seven - Thursday March 9
James Wade 7-3 Jelle Klaasen
Peter Wright 7-4 Dave Chisnall
Raymond van Barneveld 7-2 Gary Anderson
Kim Huybrechts 3-7 Adrian Lewis
Phil Taylor 4-7 Michael van Gerwen