PHIL TAYLOR secured his place in the Betway Premier League Play-Offs with a win over Robert Thornton in Bournemouth on Thursday, as Michael van Gerwen all but qualified for next month's semi-finals with two victories on the south coast.
Taylor followed up his whitewash of Thornton earlier this season with a 7-2 success in front of a sell-out 3,500 fans at the Bournemouth International Centre, which included former England footballer Paul Gascoigne, to extend his brilliant unbeaten run to 12 matches.
The six-time Premier League champion has now secured his place in next month's Play-Offs at The O2 in London, and has achieved his first aim of 2016 after missing out on the top four for the first time in the event's history last year.
"I'm very happy to have qualified for the Play-Offs because with the field that we've got it's hard work," said Taylor. "I'm over the moon to be at The O2, it was the aim at the start of the season and it's sent a message out to the rest of the players.
"I want to push on now and make sure that I finish top and I'll keep working hard. This wasn't my best performance and it was difficult but I got the win and that was all that mattered."
Van Gerwen, meanwhile, followed up a fine 7-2 win over Peter Wright in the night's opening fixture before edging out Adrian Lewis 7-5 - after the Stoke ace took out 142 in hitting back from 4-1 down to level - to also extend his unbeaten streak to 12 games.
The Dutchman now sits six points clear of James Wade with three games remaining in the league season, meaning that he needs just a point from his clash with the left-hander in Birmingham next week the mathematically secure his Play-Off spot.
"Getting the four points was the most important thing and I'm really pleased with that but I wanted to play better," said van Gerwen. "I did my job and I knew that the game against Adrian was very important and maybe I was trying too hard, so need to relax.
"I've worked really hard but it's not finished yet and I'll look forward to next week and prepare for James Wade. I feel fantastic and I'll play better next week.
"I want to win everything and I don't like losing, so I'm doing everything I can to finish at the top of the table and I won't give up on that."
Reigning Premier League champion Gary Anderson paid the price for missing six match darts against James Wade as the 2009 winner clawed his way back from 6-3 down to claim a draw which sees him remain a point behind the Scot and Lewis in the hunt for a top-four spot.
"I'm really happy with the point," said Wade, who remained fifth. "Gary missed a few doubles at the end and I'm sure he's disappointed, I think the draw was about right.
"I'm trying to relax and enjoy it - there were two or three games that I should have won and I didn't, which would have put me six points in front of where I am - but I'm not so I'm going to relax, enjoy myself and see how it goes."
Raymond van Barneveld kept alive his hopes of breaking into the top four with a second successive victory, with a key 141 checkout for the only break of throw in his clash with Lewis helping him to a 7-4 victory.
"It's a good two points," said the Dutchman, who turned 49 on Wednesday. "Last week I said to myself that maybe I wasn't going to make the top four, and even though I can I was more relaxed this week.
"Adrian wasn't at his best but I'm happy with the win. If I keep on winning my matches then maybe I can still get into the top four but I've got to see how it goes from week to week."
The Betway Premier League continues next Thursday at The Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham, where both Anderson and Wright will compete twice on the night as the eight stars continue to compete for places in May's Play-Offs.
Tickets for the Betway Premier League at The Barclaycard Arena are still available by calling 0844 338 8000 or online via www.theticketfactory.com.
Betway Premier League
Night 12 - April 21
Bournemouth International Centre
Michael van Gerwen 7-2 Peter Wright
Raymond van Barneveld 7-4 Adrian Lewis
Gary Anderson 6-6 James Wade
Phil Taylor 7-2 Robert Thornton
Adrian Lewis 5-7 Michael van Gerwen
Best of 12 legs
After Night 12
Michael van Gerwen
Raymond van Barneveld
Dave Chisnall (E)
Michael Smith (E)
Michael van Gerwen v Peter Wright
1-0 - van Gerwen lands a 180 to set up 64 before landing double 16 to take the opening leg.
2-0 - Two misses from Wright allow van Gerwen in to break with a 72 checkout.
2-1 - Wright breaks back immediately by finishing 70.
3-1 - van Gerwen secures another break of throw, taking out 86 on double 16.
4-1 - Both players kick off with five perfect darts, landing a 180 and two further treble 20s, before van Gerwen finishes 47 on double 16 for an 11-darter to move three legs clear.
4-2 - Wright lands a 180 and double ten to respond.
5-2 - van Gerwen has enough breathing space to initially miss four darts at doubles before returning on double ten.
6-2 - van Gerwen lands his third 180 before finishing double 16 to ensure a minimum of a draw.
7-2 - The Dutchman secures the win by landing double 16.
Raymond van Barneveld v Adrian Lewis
1-0 - van Barneveld lands a 180 and double four to win the opening leg.
1-1 - Lewis fires in three 140s before double eight sees him level.
2-1 - Double 16 edges the Dutchman back ahead.
2-2 - Lewis levels by taking out 40, although he switches to double 15 after landing double five with a dart at tops.
3-2 - Another 32 checkout sees van Barneveld regain the lead.
4-2 - The Dutchman produces a brilliant 12-darter to break throw, scoring 180 and 141 in successive visits during a superb leg.
5-2 - Double eight sees van Barneveld claim a third successive leg to pull clear.
5-3 - Four missed doubles from the 2014 champion allow Lewis back on double ten.
6-3 - van Barneveld finishes 110 to secure a minimum of a draw.
6-4 - Lewis hits back to keep alive his hopes of claiming a point.
7-4 - Double four sees van Barneveld secure his second successive win.
Gary Anderson v James Wade
1-0 - Anderson finishes 42 on tops to claim the opening leg.
2-0 - The reigning champion breaks throw by finishing 60 on tops.
2-1 - Wade breaks back, finishing 78.
2-2 - Anderson misses double five to finish 130, and Wade takes out 64 on tops to level.
3-2 - Tops sees Anderson edge back ahead.
3-3 - Double ten from Wade levels.
4-3 - Anderson opens with a 180 before finishing double six to regain the edge.
5-3 - The Scot kicks off with another maximum before breaking throw on tops, after Wade misses double 12 for a 141 checkout.
6-3 - Wade this time opens with a 180, but Anderson finishes 81 on double six to secure a minimum of a draw.
6-4 - Anderson lands a 180, but misses two match darts to allow Wade in on double five to keep his hopes alive.
6-5 - Wade finishes 71 on tops to take the game into a decider.
6-6 - Anderson hits his fifth 180 of the game, but misses four further match darts to allow Wade back in to snatch a draw on double five.
Phil Taylor v Robert Thornton
1-0 - Taylor finishes 45 to win the opening leg.
2-0 - Thornton misses the bull and two further darts at doubles to win the leg, allowing Taylor in on double ten to break throw.
3-0 - Thornton lands the game's first 180, but Taylor hits double ten with his third dart as he continues his march.
3-1 - Tops sees Thornton hit back with his first leg of the contest.
4-1 - Taylor lands a 180 and tops to regain his three-leg lead.
4-2 - Thornton posts a maximum before finishing 41 to claim his second leg.
5-2 - Double 12 sees Taylor restore his cushion.
6-2 - Thornton misses double eight to take out 92, and Taylor's double eight sees him secure a minimum of a point.
7-2 - Thornton's miss at tops allows Taylor in to finish 78 on the same bed to complete a victory which ensures his place in the Play-Offs next month.
Phil Taylor's win secures his place in the Betway Premier League Play-Offs
Adrian Lewis v Michael van Gerwen
0-1 - Lewis misses four darts at a double, and van Gerwen lands tops for an immediate break of throw.
0-2 - Lewis fires in a 171 score to leave 32, only for van Gerwen to produce a killer 124 finish on the bull to double his lead.
1-2 - Five missed doubles from van Gerwen allow Lewis back in on double two to hit back.
1-3 - van Gerwen takes out 65 on double four to regain his cushion.
1-4 - van Gerwen finishes 100 with two double tops to open up a three-leg lead with another break.
2-4 - Double two sees Lewis claim a second leg with a break of throw.
3-4 - van Gerwen lands a 180, but two misses at top allow Lewis in to hit the same bed as he responds.
4-4 - Lewis finishes a brilliant 142 checkout to level the contest in stunning fashion.
4-5 - van Gerwen responds with a 180 before capitalising on Lewis' missed doubles across two visits to move ahead with a third-dart double five.
4-6 - van Gerwen finishes 65 on tops to ensure he will remain unbeaten in 12 matches.
5-6 - The Dutchman misses four match darts, and Lewis follows a 180 with double 19 to force a deciding leg.
5-7 - van Gerwen is first to a finish before pinning double 16 to secure both points.