RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD produced a stunning bullseye finish to win a dramatic final-leg shoot-out against Michael van Gerwen in the TAB Auckland Darts Masters quarter-finals on Saturday night, as Phil Taylor, Adrian Lewis and James Wade also claimed victories.
The five-time World Champion overcame his Dutch rival for the second successive weekend, following up last week's convincing triumph in Sydney with a battling comeback to thrill the 5,000 crowd at the Trusts Arena.
Van Gerwen had powered into leads of 3-0 and 4-1 before van Barneveld turned the tables to move 5-4 up, and though the world number one edged back ahead he was made to pay for two missed match darts as his rival claimed a dramatic win.
After double 18 helped van Gerwen win the opening leg in 14 darts, he took out 101 to break and then double five to win a third leg, and though double 12 got van Barneveld off the mark, an 88 checkout saw the 26-year-old move 4-1 up with a 12-darter.
Van Gerwen, though, missed the bull for a 170 finish and two further darts to win the next, with double ten seeing van Barneveld hit back before he took out 96, double eight and double 16 to amazingly move 5-4 up.
Double five saw van Gerwen hit back before he produced a sublime 167 checkout to regain the lead at 6-5, and after his opponent levelled on double one another 14-dart finish put the world number one a leg away from victory.
He opened the 14th leg with a fourth maximum of the game, but two misses at double eight to claim victory allowed van Barneveld to take out 64 on double 16 to force a decider before the five-time World Champion took out 84 on the bull to snatch a dramatic win.
Van Barneveld now takes on James Wade, produced a master-class in double top hitting as he overcame Peter Wright 8-5 to win through to the semi-finals.
"There's always a lot of pressure playing Michael because we're so close and he was determined to win after I beat him last week, and you could see his focus early on in the game," said van Barneveld.
"I came back but in the last leg you expect Michael to hit a 180 or an 11 or 12-darter, but he gave me a chance and it was a huge relief when that last dart went in the bullseye.
"So many times in the last few years I've lost games in the last leg, so finally the coin flipped my way today.
"It would be fantastic to reach the final and hopefully if I can beat James Wade in the semis then I can win the final, but James is a top class player and you know what you're going to get."
Wade and Wright had shared the wins from their previous two meetings in Perth and Sydney, but it was the left-hander who progressed to the last four by out-scoring his rival by four 180s to three and crucially winning seven legs out of eight on his favourite double top.
Wright claimed and immediate break of throw in the game's opening leg before Wade replied in kind, hitting a 180 and tops to level before taking the next on the same bed, after the colourful Scot missed a dart to break.
Wright landed a 180 and tops to level in leg four, but Wade finished 58 to edge back in front and then took the next two to move 5-2 up, following up a 101 checkout to punish three misses from his rival before then taking out 99 with two double tops.
One rare miss at tops from Wade allowed Wright to hit back in leg eight, and the pair traded 180s in the next before a superb 121 bullseye finish saw the gap cut to 5-4.
Both players also landed 180s in the tenth, but with Wright waiting on 40 to level the game Wade produced a key 82 finish to regain a two-leg cushion.
Wright's miss at double 16 in the next allowed Wade in to move 7-4 up, again on tops, and though the number three seed took out 62 to stay in the game, it was only a brief rally as the left-hander hit a 180 and a rare double ten to seal the win.
"Peter didn't play his natural game and I made the most of it," said Wade. "I'm really happy with how I hit double top and I felt good today.
"There's always room for improvement and I'll have to have more in the tank, but my game's never been about big finishes and big scores, it's always been about hitting that finish at the right time.
"It's a different day for the semi-finals and final but I'm excited about it. I know I can beat anyone in the world, but if you talk the talk you've got to walk the walk."
Phil Taylor's bid to win a fourth successive PDC World Series of Darts title continued with an 8-3 romp against Simon Whitlock, as the 16-time World Champion averaged 107.37 and finished eight doubles from 11 attempts to sweep into the semi-finals.
Taylor was in relentless mood as he claimed the game's opening seven legs without reply, and though Whitlock produced a three-leg rally it was not enough as the top seed sealed the win.
Taylor finished 62 and 89 to win the opening two legs in 14 and 12 darts, before punishing three missed doubles from Whitlock in the third with a sensational 170 maximum checkout.
Back-to-back 14-darters were followed by an 11-dart finish as Taylor took a six-leg lead, before he checked out 102 to maintain his dominance.
Taylor also landed a 180 in leg eight as he targeted a whitewash, but Whitlock took out a brilliant 135 finish to claim his first leg.
Taylor's 177 in the next was bettered by a 180 from the Australian, who then finished double 16 to continue his revival and 100 to pull back to 7-3, but the 55-year-old fired in a 171 score to pull clear in leg 11 before double ten sealed an emphatic display.
"Simon's back was against the wall but he was determined that he wouldn't give in, and to be honest he had nothing to lose at 7-0 and he started to relax and enjoy himself," said Taylor, who whitewashed Craig Caldwell in Friday's first round.
"When he got a couple of legs back he probably started to think he could win it, so I'm glad I got it finished when I did.
"I can look forward to the semi-finals now because I'm relaxed, enjoying myself and my form is building steadily throughout the tournament. I want to win this and it's all coming together."
Taylor will take on Adrian Lewis in the last four in a repeat of last week's Sydney Darts Masters final, after the number four seed produced a clinical display to knock out World Champion Gary Anderson 8-4.
Lewis took command from the start, matching Anderson's 180 with a maximum of his own before punishing missed doubles from the Scot to take out tops and double 16 to win the opening two legs.
Double ten saw Anderson get off the mark, with Lewis taking out 120 to move 3-1 up before an 11-darter saw the World Champion hit back once more as the pair traded 180s once again.
Anderson then kicked off the sixth leg with two 180s, but after missing out on a nine-darter went on to lose the leg as Lewis landed double four, before tops and an 83 finish moved the Stoke ace 6-2 up.
Anderson took out 126 and 127 to win two of the next three to stay in the hunt, but Lewis had finished 87 on tops to move to the brink of victory before taking out double 16 for a 14-darter to seal his spot in the semis.
"Gary's one of the best players I've ever played against, so to go up there and win 8-4 means a lot to me," said Lewis. "
"My finishing in the whole World Series has been pretty poor; my scoring has got me out of jail and when I've been under pressure I've taken out massive shots, but tonight my finishing was awesome.
"My finishing in these first couple of games has been fantastic, and now that I'm feeling confident in my finishing it will take a phenomenal performance to beat me. It will be a belter against Phil and he knows this will be a tough game."
The TAB Auckland Darts Masters concludes on Sunday evening at the Trusts Arena, with the semi-finals to be followed by the final of the PDC World Series of Darts event.
Tickets can be purchased through Eventfinda viawww.eventfinda.co.nz or through 0800 BUY TIX (289 849), and at the venue ticket office, with doors opening at 6pm.
TAB Auckland Darts Masters
Saturday August 29
James Wade 8-5 Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen 7-8 Raymond van Barneveld
Phil Taylor 8-3 Simon Whitlock
Gary Anderson 4-8 Adrian Lewis
Best of 15 legs
Sunday August 30 (7pm)
Raymond van Barneveld v James Wade
Phil Taylor v Adrian Lewis
Best of 19 legs
Taylor/Lewis v van Barneveld/Wade
Best of 21 legs