DARREN WEBSTER dumped World Champion Rob Cross out of the BetVictor World Matchplay with an 11-8 win to reach the quarter-finals for a second successive year on a dramatic Wednesday in Blackpool.
Clinical finishing proved to be the difference for world number 15 Webster, as Cross exited the Blackpool event in round two for a second successive year.
With Cross waiting on a finish at 10-8, the Norfolk thrower sealed victory with his last dart in hand to spark huge celebrations in the Winter Gardens and keep himself in the hunt to claim the Phil Taylor Trophy.
"I really enjoyed that win, it's a great feeling to beat the World Champion," said Webster, who also reached the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Championship.
"When you get involved in a scrap you have to dig in and win it. I know I'm good enough to beat the best players and now I'm showing it.
"I've got the chance of a lifetime to push into the top ten and now I want to keep winning and keep pushing my way up.
"I'm playing the best darts of my life in terms of results but I've still got an extra 20% of my practice game to bring to the big stage.
"I didn't used to like playing against Mensur but I enjoy it now so I'm looking forward to getting stuck into that game."
There was nothing to separate the pair with the scores tied at 5-5 but it was Webster who seized the initiative in the second half of the contest, taking out 20 to take a 7-5 lead.
That break of throw turned out to be the crucial moment in the match as Webster stood firm to hold throw four times despite the best efforts of Cross, who averaged 98.81 but paid for 21 missed doubles.
Having won through to his latest televised quarter-final, the Norfolk man who will face Mensur Suljovic in the last eight on Friday.
Austrian ace Suljovic edged out Ian White 11-8 in a tense affair to reach the quarter-finals for the third time in four years.
The world number six got off to a strong start, taking a 3-0 lead before maintaining the advantage throughout the game despite being pushed all the way by White, who clawed his way back into the contest to trail 9-8.
Suljovic crucially found double nine at the third attempt to break straight back before pinning his favourite double 14 in the following leg to book his place in the last eight once again.
"My performance was not that good, but I am so happy that I won," said Suljovic, the 2017 Champions League of Darts winner.
"It was a very hard game, Ian is a good player. There are lots of good players in this tournament who are favourites ahead of me but I will keep trying my best to win."
Last year's beaten finalist Peter Wright produced a superb 105.6 average, the highest of the tournament so far, in his 11-5 victory over Kim Huybrechts.
The world number two was in confident mood heading into the tie and delivered a world-class performance, though Huybrechts matched his rival as both players averaged over 105 after nine legs.
Wright broke the Belgian's throw to move into a 7-4 lead and then cruised to victory, landing a roof-raising 130 finish on the bull on the way to booking a quarter-final tie with Simon Whitlock.
"I felt comfortable and I felt focused - I'm happy with how I played," said Wright.
"In my next game it will be tough because Simon is a good friend but when we get up on stage I will have to treat him as the enemy. He is fantastic though and he's playing really good darts at the moment."
Whitlock's 11-7 win over James Wade in the opening game of the evening guaranteed a new name on the trophy this year.
Wade, the only former champion remaining in the field following his 2007 triumph, struggled to find his best form throughout the match but stuck with Whitlock and found himself trailing 6-4 heading into the second break.
Two-time Winter Gardens semi-finalist Whitlock took advantage of Wade's two missed darts at double to go within a leg of victory at 10-7 and then finished the job to advance to the quarter-finals in Blackpool for the first time since 2014.
"I feel really relaxed on the Winter Gardens stage this year, I'm enjoying playing up there," said Whitlock.
"I started well and then it became a scrap, I felt like I should've been further ahead at some points but I got the win and that's all that matters.
"The last time I got to the semis here was in 2014 and I actually feel like I'm playing better now than I was then."
The £500,000 tournament continues on Thursday at Blackpool's Winter Gardens, as world number four Gary Anderson plays Joe Cullen and Dave Chisnall plays Jeffrey de Zwaan, the Dutch wonderkid who has knocked out Michael van Gerwen and Adrian Lewis so far this week.
Friday's quarter-finals begin with Suljovic meeting Webster before Wright takes on Whitlock for a spot in the last four.
2018 BetVictor World Matchplay
Schedule of Play
Wednesday July 25
Simon Whitlock 11-7 James Wade
Mensur Suljovic 11-8 Ian White
Darren Webster 11-8 Rob Cross
Peter Wright 11-5 Kim Huybrechts
Thursday July 26 (7pm)
Jeffrey de Zwaan v Dave Chisnall
Joe Cullen v Gary Anderson
Friday July 27 (7pm)
Peter Wright v Simon Whitlock
Mensur Suljovic v Darren Webster
Quarter-Finals: Best of 31 legs
KIM HUYBRECHTS claimed his first ever win at the BetVictor World Matchplay in thrilling style as he edged past John Henderson 13-12 in an incredible clash as the first round concluded on Monday.
Huybrechts had suffered six consecutive first round exits on the famous Blackpool stage but broke his duck against Henderson to kick off night three in Blackpool with a bang.
The Belgian had to survive a match dart in a dramatic deciding leg before finding double eight to claim victory in a high class contest which saw 13 180s and five ton-plus finishes.
"I am so relieved to finally win a game on this stage," said Huybrechts, who will face Peter Wright in round two.
"I was certain that John was going to hit double top and win the match but when he didn't I knew I had to take my chance and thankfully I did.
"It's never easy playing under such huge pressure but I'm so happy to win and now I'm going to enjoy this moment."
The former Premier League star raced into a 5-1 lead before Henderson battled back to 6-6 and then took out 60 to take the lead for the first time in the tie at 9-8.
Huybrechts broke straight back with an 85 finish to save the match and take the game to a first tie-break of the evening.
The Belgian missed four match darts in the tie-break, as Henderson took the match all the way to 12-12.
With Huybrechts unable to watch, Henderson missed a match dart of his own at double 20 before the Belgian stepped up to take out 32 and seal his passage into round two for the first time.
Last year's beaten finalist Wright cruised to a 10-5 victory over Jelle Klaasen in the final game of the first round, hitting a roof-raising 170 finish along the way.
The former UK Open champion struck a 122 checkout to move 3-0 up and found himself in a commanding 4-1 lead heading into the first break.
Klaasen fought his way back to 9-5 but was unable to get close to challenging for the lead as Wright marched onto the last 16 for a fourth successive year.
"I wanted to play a lot better than I did tonight," said Wright, the 9/2 second favourite with sponsors BetVictor.
"Ideally I would've produced a ton-plus average but there's a long way to go in the tournament and I'm confident I will beat Kim in the next round."
The only former champion remaining in the tournament, James Wade, was made to work hard for a 12-10 win over Jermaine Wattimena in the second tie-break of the evening.
With neither player producing their best game, the six-time Winter Gardens finalist was unable to shake off a stubborn Wattimena, who fought back from 9-7 to take the game into additional legs.
Wade held throw to take an 11-10 lead before landing double 18 to find the match-winning break of throw and set up a round two clash with Simon Whitlock.
"That was a very frustrating game for me, I thought I was going to play a lot better than that," Wade admitted.
"I just wanted to go up there and play well and not get involved in a scrap because it's never nice.
"I was nervous and anxious to get over the finishing line which, thankfully, I did in the end but I will need to play a lot better than that."
Whitlock secured a convincing 10-2 victory over his close friend and Winter Gardens debutant Richard North.
The Australian flew into a 4-0 lead and, with 36 points separating North from registering his first leg, Whitlock hit a crucial 126 finish to go into the break with a commanding five leg cushion.
The two-time Blackpool semi-finalist made it 8-0 before North won back-to-back legs to make it 8-2, but they proved to be nothing more than a consolation as Whitlock progressed to round two for the sixth time in eight years.
"Richard is a fantastic dart player, a lot better than he showed tonight," said Whitlock.
"It's never easy playing a friend but I felt relaxed during the match and I'm happy to make it through."
The £500,000 tournament continues on Tuesday at Blackpool's Winter Gardens, with four second round ties including Gary Anderson taking on Raymond van Barneveld.
Jeffrey de Zwaan, who knocked out world number one Michael van Gerwen, plays 2013 finalist Adrian Lewis, Michael Smith meets St Helens rival Dave Chisnall and Daryl Gurney takes on Joe Cullen.
Following the opening three days of action, Anderson is outright favourite to win the World Matchplay title at 11/4 with sponsors BetVictor, with Cross at 7/2.
2018 BetVictor World Matchplay
Schedule of Play
Monday July 23
Kim Huybrechts 13-12 John Henderson
Simon Whitlock 10-2 Richard North
James Wade 12-10 Jermaine Wattimena
Peter Wright 10-5 Jelle Klaasen
Tuesday July 24 (7pm)
Dave Chisnall v Michael Smith
Daryl Gurney v Joe Cullen
Jeffrey de Zwaan v Adrian Lewis
Gary Anderson v Raymond van Barneveld
Wednesday July 25 (7pm)
Simon Whitlock v James Wade
Mensur Suljovic v Ian White
Rob Cross v Darren Webster
Peter Wright v Kim Huybrechts
Best of 21 legs
* Each game must be won by two clear legs, with up to a maximum of five additional legs being played before the sixth additional leg is sudden-death. For example, should a Second Round game (best of 21 legs) reach 13-13, then the 27th leg would be the final and deciding leg.
BetVictor Outright Winner Odds - Following Round One
11/4 Gary Anderson
7/2 Rob Cross
9/2 Peter Wright
8/1 Michael Smith
10/1 Mensur Suljovic, Adrian Lewis, James Wade
16/1 Daryl Gurney
18/1 Raymond van Barneveld
33/1 Joe Cullen, Ian White, Simon Whitlock
40/1 Dave Chisnall
66/1 Jeffrey de Zwaan, Darren Webster, Kim Huybrechts
Written by Josh Phillips
JEFFREY DE ZWAAN produced one of the biggest shocks ever seen at the Winter Gardens as he dumped out two-time champion Michael van Gerwen on the opening night of the 2018 BetVictor World Matchplay in Blackpool.
Number one seed Van Gerwen was odds-on to win the event before the start of play but fellow Dutchman De Zwaan repeated his UK Open triumph of March with a stunning 10-6 victory.
With Van Gerwen not at his usual brilliant best, the exciting youngster took full advantage, firing in a game-changing 121 checkout to level the tie at 6-6.
De Zwaan then reeled off the next four legs to raise the roof at the Winter Gardens and set up a second round clash with Adrian Lewis.
"I am absolutely over the moon with this win," said De Zwaan, who was making his World Matchplay debut after winning a Players Championship event in April.
"I always believe in myself, I said to myself 'why can't I beat Michael?' I know I am good enough to do it.
"To win this game on this stage is an absolute dream for me, I have to keep pinching myself!
"Everything has come together for me recently, I'm practicing hard every day and now it is paying off.
"I'm looking forward to playing Adrian on Tuesday and I want to cause another upset."
The opening match of the night saw former finalist 2013 finalist Lewis survive a scare as he overcame James Wilson 10-8 in a tense affair.
Lewis started well, taking the opening two legs before the Yorkshireman fought back to lead 7-3 thanks to some clinical double hitting.
The two-time World Champion dug deep to get himself back in the contest and went within a leg of victory at 9-8, before hitting a magnificent 116 finish - the highest of the match - to seal his place in the second round.
"I felt a bit nervous tonight because I've not played on TV for seven months," said Lewis.
"When I was 7-3 down I knew I had to find something and I did that. James was fantastic in the first ten legs, I didn't quite have my rhythm at times but I sped up towards the end and got the job done.
"I've been feeling the pressure in first round games all year so it's a relief to get through and hopefully I can push on now."
Four-time quarter-finalist Dave Chisnall ran out a comfortable 10-4 winner against Keegan Brown, growing in confidence as the tie went on after a tricky start.
Brown began brightly, leading 3-2 going into the first break before Chisnall hit brilliant back-to-back checkouts of 148 and 147 to take the lead for the first time in the contest.
Although Brown levelled at 4-4, Chisnall continued his charge as the former Grand Slam of Darts finalist rattled off the next six legs without reply to seal his place in the last 16 for a sixth year in succession.
"It was tricky and it's never easy to play Keegan," said Chisnall. "The 148 was a big turning point because he was on a double, and I think from then his head went down.
"I've got to play a lot better but I've done a lot of practise in the last couple of weeks and it's worked."
The final game of the evening saw Michael Smith see off World Matchplay debutant Jonny Clayton with a commanding 10-6 win.
Fresh from claiming the Shanghai Darts Masters title, Smith was made to work hard for the victory by the Welshman in a tight clash.
With Smith averaging ten points more than Clayton and leading 7-6, the former World Youth Champion kicked on in the final three legs to set up an all-St Helens clash with Chisnall in round two.
"I kept letting Jonny back in and it was a bit of a struggle, but I'm still in," said Smith, the 2018 Premier League finalist. "I didn't play my best but I ground out the victory.
"I felt like I was a bit dodgy but I'm glad to get over the line and get the win, and I'm looking forward to Tuesday."
Smith admitted: "After Michael van Gerwen lost, I went to give myself a little talking to.
"It's not opened up because I still had a game to play tonight and another game before I played Michael. I could only worry about Michael van Gerwen in the quarter-finals so I had to stay focused."
The £500,000 tournament continues on Sunday with a double session at Blackpool's Winter Gardens, including two-time World Champion Gary Anderson beginning his final challenge against Stephen Bunting.
Following Saturday's opening night, Anderson has now been installed as joint-favourite to win the World Matchplay title alongside Rob Cross at 4/1 with sponsors BetVictor.
The BetVictor World Matchplay will be televised live on Sky Sports and worldwide through the PDC's broadcast partners, as well as through PDCTV-HD for Rest of the World Subscribers (outside of UK, Ireland & Netherlands).
2018 BetVictor World Matchplay
Schedule of Play
Saturday July 21
Adrian Lewis 10-8 James Wilson
Dave Chisnall 10-4 Keegan Brown
Jeffrey de Zwaan 10-6 Michael van Gerwen
Michael Smith 10-6 Jonny Clayton
Sunday July 22
Afternoon Session (1pm)
Darren Webster v Steve Lennon
Ian White v Max Hopp
Gerwyn Price v Joe Cullen
Daryl Gurney v Steve West
Evening Session (7.30pm)
Mensur Suljovic v Steve Beaton
Gary Anderson v Stephen Bunting
Rob Cross v Mervyn King
Raymond van Barneveld v Kyle Anderson
Best of 19 legs
* Each game must be won by two clear legs, with up to a maximum of five additional legs being played before the sixth additional leg is sudden-death. For example, should a First Round game (best of 19 legs) reach 12-12, then the 25th leg would be the final and deciding leg.
BetVictor World Matchplay
Tournament Odds (following Night One)
4/1 Gary Anderson, Rob Cross
6/1 Peter Wright
8/1 Michael Smith
10/1 Adrian Lewis
12/1 James Wade
14/1 Mensur Suljovic
16/1 Daryl Gurney
20/1 Raymond van Barneveld
33/1 Simon Whitlock
40/1 Ian White, Dave Chisnall
66/1 Gerwyn Price, Jeffrey de Zwaan
80/1 Joe Cullen, Darren Webster
100/1 Kim Huybrechts, Kyle Anderson, Stephen Bunting
150/1 Jelle Klaasen, Jermaine Wattimena, Max Hopp, Mervyn King, Steve West
200/1 John Henderson, Steve Beaton
250/1 Steve Lennon
500/1 Richard North
Odds courtesy www.betvictor.com and correct at time of writing.