STEPHEN BUNTING is facing a make-or-break night in his bid to win a Betway Premier League Play-Off place when he doubles up alongside Phil Taylor in Aberdeen on Thursday.
Bunting sits eighth in the Premier League table on seven points after joining Adrian Lewis and reigning champion Raymond van Barneveld in avoiding elimination a fortnight ago.
However, Bunting is only two points away from fourth place, with Taylor, James Wade and Lewis all sat on nine points as the race to win semi-final spots intensifies.
Bunting's Play-Off challenge will face a key night at the GE Oil & Gas Arena as he takes on Lewis before returning to the stage later in the evening to face 16-time World Champion Taylor.
"It's a huge night," admits the former Lakeside Champion. "I've just got to get up there, play my normal game and enjoy it.
"I think I've been putting too much pressure on myself over the last ten weeks in the Premier League and it's time to enjoy it now - I'm still in, after the cut-off, and I want to take my A-game onto that stage and see what I can do.
"I've not even looked at the Phil game yet - last time I played Adrian in the Premier League I got the win and I'll be looking to do the same on Thursday.
"If I get the two wins it will put me on 11 points and that's the plan because if I can win the two games on Thursday it will put me in a really good position to get into the Play-Offs."
Taylor's own challenge to win a seventh Premier League title has faltered in recent weeks with four defeats in his last five games, and he faces a St Helens double in Aberdeen as he takes on second-placed Dave Chisnall before meeting Bunting.
Taylor had swept past Bunting 7-1 in Week Three, but was punished for missed doubles against Chisnall a fortnight ago as he fell to a 7-4 reverse.
"It's an important night and it could be a big night in terms of the Play-Offs in a few weeks time," said Taylor.
"It's always a challenge playing twice but it's one I'm looking forward to because Dave and Stephen have been great this season.
"Stephen wasn't at his best when we played last time but he's hung in there and he's still fighting to get into the Play-Offs, and Dave's impressed everyone."
Chisnall took a huge step to securing a Play-Off place when he won both of his games in Sheffield last Thursday as he doubled up, and the former Grand Slam of Darts finalist now sits eight points clear of the stars chasing a semi-final spot.
"You don't know what's going to happen because there's another five or six games to go, so we'll see what happens but I'm putting in a lot of practice and I'm feeling good when I go on stage," said Chisnall.
"I felt really comfortable last week and I played well - I started well and finished well and I want to do that again when I play Phil.
"Last time, I started slowly and he let me in but I can't expect that again so I've got to make sure I'm ready for him on Thursday."
Lewis is also in confident mood after kick-starting his season with victories over the past two weeks before picking up victories in two out of three Players Championship tournaments staged in Barnsley last weekend.
"The weekend was fantastic for me and my finishing under pressure in the last couple of weeks has been good," said Lewis. "I'm on their tails and I'm looking forward to playing Stephen.
"Stephen's had a steady tournament. He hasn't taken the league by storm but he's very professional, keeps himself to himself and he's a very good player who's doing a good job."
Scottish hero and World Champion Gary Anderson is looking to bounce back from his defeat to Chisnall a week ago when he faces Wade on what he admits will be a memorable occasion.
"We only get up to Scotland twice in the Premier League so it's definitely a special night for me," admits Anderson, who sits in third place and has a four-point cushion despite a defeat to Chisnall a week ago.
"Getting into the Play-Offs is the aim and with the standard of players now nothing's a given. You saw that by the way Dave Chisnall played last week
"James is a superb player and if you get a chance against him you know you've got to take it. When he gets chances, he usually takes them out and he's a player you've got to hit with everything and take out your shots before he does."
The night's other clash sees unbeaten league leader van Gerwen taking on Dutch rival van Barneveld, who is hoping to be cheered to glory by the supportive Aberdeen crowd.
"I hope the Scots will support me," he said. "It's like a home game for me and the fans there, like in Ireland, Wales, England, Germany and Holland, are fantastic.
"Michael's in amazing form at the moment and hopefully I can have a good game against him. I'm fighting to get into that top four and I still believe it can be done.
"There are some unbelievable talents but I'm still alive in the competition. The last four weeks have been okay, I've had three ton-plus averages and won five points."
Van Gerwen picked up a 7-2 win over van Barneveld when the pair met in Dublin last month, and overcame Bunting 7-5 a week ago to maintain his unbeaten record after ten matches.
"The Scottish fans love the darts and it's going to be a fantastic game," said the world number one. "It's special, of course, because it's two top Dutchmen playing against each other.
"There's more pressure on him than me because I can relax now, I think I'm already in the semis and he needs to perform to get in there and can't afford any mistakes. I can - but I don't want to make any.
"I want to keep focusing on my own performance, and whatever Raymond does is his thing. I just want to put on some more nice performances and I'm trying my best every week."
Betway Premier League
Night 11, Thursday April 16
GE Oil & Gas Arena, Aberdeen
Dave Chisnall v Phil Taylor
Stephen Bunting v Adrian Lewis
James Wade v Gary Anderson
Raymond van Barneveld v Michael van Gerwen
Stephen Bunting v Phil Taylor
Tickets: 08444 77 9000 orwww.ticketmaster.co.uk/aecc
Betway Match Odds
7/4 Dave Chisnall
10/11 Phil Taylor
2/1 Stephen Bunting
5/6 Adrian Lewis
3/1 James Wade
8/13 Gary Anderson
9/2 Raymond van Barneveld
2/5 Michael van Gerwen
5/2 Stephen Bunting
8/13 Phil Taylor
Odds courtesy www.betway.comand subject to fluctuation.