MICHAEL VAN GERWEN secured his place in the Betway Premier League Play-Offs with a stunning whitewash of James Wade in Cardiff on Thursday, as wins for Raymond van Barneveld and Stephen Bunting and a draw between Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis left the top-four race wide open.
Van Gerwen produced the season's highest average of 116.90 and denied Wade a dart at a double with a scintillating performance in his first of two games at the Motorpoint Arena.
The Dutchman also hit seven perfect darts in one leg, five 180s and took out finishes of 105, 154 and 130 as he powered to victory in the season's first whitewash.
The victory also mathematically secured van Gerwen's place in next month's Play-Offs at The O2 in London, before he later returned to the stage to take on World Champion Gary Anderson.
However, he left to rue missing three darts to claim a draw in a high-quality contest as Anderson edged a 7-5 win to consolidate his position in third place.
"I played well tonight and they were both fantastic games," said van Gerwen. "The game against James was an amazing performance and I'm proud of myself.
"I'm so happy with how it went. I knew that I was playing quite well but the average was better than I thought so I'm over the moon with that.
"In the last game I felt that we both deserved a draw but I gave it away at the end with the three darts to get a point. I did well tonight and didn't play badly but I want to win all my games and it was one of those weeks."
Anderson's win saw him bounce back from a disappointing defeat earlier in the night - where he went down 7-1 to Stephen Bunting in his poorest display of the season - to overcome the world number one in a deciding leg.
The opening six legs were shared before Anderson defied a van Gerwen 180 to finish a 13-darter to move 4-3 up before breaking throw for the first time by hitting the bull to check out 86.
Van Gerwen hit back to level by winning the next two legs, but Anderson finished 130 to claim at least a draw by moving 6-5 up before punishing the Dutchman for missing the bull for a 170 finish and two subsequent dart at double eight as double five gave the Scot both points.
"The game against Stephen was one to forget - I might as well have been throwing left-handed - and it was good to get the win against Michael," said Anderson.
"Coming into the night you'd have thought that I'd beat Stephen and then struggle against Michael, especially after his first game, but in the first game I couldn't get going.
"I'm always up for games against Michael and I'm nipping at his heels and I'll take that. To get two points is a big lift in the table, but I want to keep pushing from here."
Bunting's earlier win over Anderson saw him take the first five legs without reply as he capitalised on missed doubles from the Scot, who took out 78 to hit back but saw the St Helens ace take the next two legs to pick up his first win since Week Six.
Bunting's performance lifted him to seventh in the table, above Wade, and keep his hopes of capping his debut season with a Play-Off place alive with him sat three points adrift of the top four with three games to play.
"To get a 7-1 win is magnificent," said Bunting. "The plan was to get off to a great start, but many times in the game I kicked off a leg with a big score and that helped me through.
"Gary's a fantastic player and he didn't play anything like he can, and I think the first leg summed it up with the missed doubles by both of us.
"If he'd have taken that then maybe my head would have been shaking, but thankfully my doubles went in today and I got the win."
Bunting added: "I don't even look at the league table any more - I know what I've got to do; win the four games, and that's the first one ticked. I've got three games left and I know I can do it."
Phil Taylor retains fourth place on 13 points after he drew with Adrian Lewis in Cardiff, with the 30-year-old leading 6-4 before the six-time Premier League champion hit back to share the spoils.
The pair both missed chances to break throw as the first eight legs were shared before Lewis broke with a 72 checkout and landed double four to move 6-4 up.
Taylor, though, finished double 16 to send the game into a deciding leg and snatched a point by landing tops for a 13-darter.
"I'm very happy with a draw," said Taylor. "I missed a few doubles and you can't afford to do that against him, so it feels like a win and a loss at the same time.
"My scoring's fine but my doubles aren't quite there and I've got to improve that, but my form's coming. It's climbing steadily but I'm still making mistakes and I can put that right."
Lewis sits one point adrift of Taylor going into his two games at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham next week, and admitted: "I'm happy to get a point but not as happy with my performance.
"I missed too many doubles early on and hit a few silly shots and Phil took advantage. Fair play to Phil because he dug deep at the end and his last two legs were superb.
"He played well but some of my finishes under pressure were good, especially the 147. It's a massive night for me next week and I'm looking forward to it."
Reigning champion van Barneveld picked up a third successive victory to continue his title defence with a superb 7-5 win over Dave Chisnall - who led for most of a thrilling contest before being pipped to the post.
Chisnall led 2-0 before finishes of 96, 90 - on the bull - and 76 saw van Barneveld reduce the gap to 4-3 before he levelled by taking out double six to break in leg eight.
Chisnall immediately broke back as he traded 180s with the Dutchman before posting double eight to lead 5-4, but a brilliant 132 bullseye finish saw van Barneveld square the game.
He then finished 85 to win the 11th leg to lead for the first time, before Chisnall - for a second successive leg - traded 180s with his rival in the decider only to miss two darts to claim a draw, as another 90 finish on the bull gave van Barneveld both points.
"It was an unreal win," said van Barneveld. "The 132 was amazing and the three bull finishes were extremely important.
"For the last three or four weeks I'm playing amazing, hitting good averages and getting the results.
"Next week is going to be an important week for me and I'm going to work very hard because I'll know after that if I can qualify for the Play-Offs or not.
"I'm playing extremely well and feeling confident, and I'm happy and enjoying myself - because I'm winning. The crowds are behind me and I still believe that I can make the top four."
Van Barneveld and Lewis double up with two games each in Birmingham next Thursday, while the world's top two ranked players - van Gerwen and Taylor - also clash in a huge contest.
Tickets for the Betway Premier League's visit to the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham on Thursday April 30 are still available and can be purchased by calling 0844 338 8000 or via www.theticketfactory.com.
Betway Premier League
Night 12, Thursday April 23
Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
Stephen Bunting 7-1 Gary Anderson
James Wade 0-7 Michael van Gerwen
Raymond van Barneveld 7-5 Dave Chisnall
Phil Taylor 6-6 Adrian Lewis
Gary Anderson 7-5 Michael van Gerwen
Stephen Bunting v Gary Anderson
1-0 - The pair suffer double trouble, with Anderson missing five doubles to punish six misses from Bunting, who returns to take the leg on double two.
2-0 - Bunting takes out double eight for a break of throw.
3-0 - Double top gives Bunting a three-leg lead.
4-0 - Bunting fires in the game's first 180 before taking out 64 for another break.
5-0 - Anderson opens the leg with his first maximum, but is punished for a miss at double 13 as Bunting checks out 104 on double 18 to win a fifth straight leg.
5-1 - Anderson wins his first leg of the game by taking out 78 on tops.
6-1 - Double 16 sees Bunting secure a point from the game.
7-1 - A 75 finish sees Bunting wrap up victory - his first win since Night Six against Dave Chisnall.
James Wade v Michael van Gerwen
0-1 - van Gerwen kicks off the match with a 180 before adding a 140 before taking out 105 for a 12-darter to break throw immediately.
0-2 - The world number one takes out 74 for a 14-darter to double his lead.
0-3 - van Gerwen sets up a possible nine-darter with two 180s, and hits a seventh treble 20 before missing the treble 19 on the 141 combination - but he returns to win the leg in 11 darts to continue his superb start.
0-4 - Double four sees van Gerwen continue his charge with another 14-dart leg - with Wade yet to have a dart at a double.
0-5 - van Gerwen breaks with another 12-darter, taking out 82 on tops.
0-6 - van Gerwen opens with another maximum, his fifth, before denying Wade a dart at a double by taking out a stunning 154 checkout.
0-7 - The Dutchman completes an incredible performance by finishing 130 on double five, ending the game with a seasons-best 116.90 average.
Raymond van Barneveld v Dave Chisnall
0-1 - Chisnall claims an immediate break of throw, taking out double six.
0-2 - Chisnall lands the game's first 180 before hitting tops to double his lead.
1-2 - The reigning champion takes out 96 to claim his first leg of the game.
1-3 - Chisnall takes out 64 on double 16 to regain his two-leg cushion.
2-3 - van Barneveld finishes 90 on the bull to hit back once more.
2-4 - Chisnall finishes double ten with his third dart as he moves two legs clear once more.
3-4 - van Barneveld finishes 76 on double 14 to respond.
4-4 - The reigning champion breaks throw on double six to level.
4-5 - The pair trade 180s before Chisnall punishes three missed doubles from van Barneveld, who misses two darts at double 13 and one at double four, by taking out double eight to break back and regain the lead.
5-5 - van Barneveld takes out 132 on the bull with a superb finish as he levels again, with Chisnall waiting on 36.
6-5 - van Barneveld guarantees at least a point with a superb leg, trading 180s with Chisnall but leaving 85 after nine darts before finishing the 85 on tops.
7-5 - Chisnall opens with his fourth maximum of the game and also adds a 140 as he leaves 81 after nine darts, with van Barneveld then landing a 180 to leave 90 - and when Chisnall misses double 12 and six the Dutchman takes out 90 on the bull for the second time in the game to claim the victory.
Phil Taylor v Adrian Lewis
1-0 - Taylor opens the game with a 180 and takes the first leg by landing tops.
1-1 - Lewis finishes 107 on tops to level.
2-1 - The pair trade 180s before Taylor punishes Lewis for a miss at the bull - to break - by taking out double eight.
2-2 - Taylor this time is unable to break throw as three darts miss double 16, allowing Lewis back in on double 18.
3-2 - Lewis misses two darts at tops as Taylor steps in to hit the same bed to regain the lead.
3-3 - Taylor fires in a 180 to leave 68 as he seeks a break - only for Lewis to take out 147 on double 18.
4-3 - Taylor lands double 16 to edge back ahead.
4-4 - Taylor misses the bull to finish 125 as Lewis again avoids a break.
4-5 - Lewis lands a 180, and when Taylor misses tops he steps in to break for the first time by taking out 72 on double 11.
4-6 - Double four sees Lewis secure at least a point out of the game.
5-6 - Taylor lands double 16 to take the game into a deciding leg.
6-6 - Taylor takes out double top to complete a 13-darter as he scrambles a draw.
Gary Anderson v Michael van Gerwen
1-0 - Anderson lands a 180 before taking the opening leg on double eight.
1-1 - van Gerwen levels by following a maximum with tops.
2-1 - Anderson posts another 180 as he regains the lead.
2-2 - The World Champion hits seven perfect darts, scoring 177 and 180 before hitting another treble 20 - but after he misses out on a nine-darter can only watch as van Gerwen wins the leg in 11 brilliant darts, scoring 123, 140 and 140 before taking out 98.
3-2 - Anderson scores three 140s before taking the leg in 13 darts on double 13.
3-3 - Double nine sees van Gerwen level.
4-3 - van Gerwen fires in a 180, but Anderson regains the lead with tops for a 13-darter.
5-3 - Anderson breaks for the first time, finishing 86 on the bull.
5-4 - Double five sees van Gerwen break back immediately.
5-5 - van Gerwen levels the contest on double five.
6-5 - Anderson moves back ahead in brilliant fashion, finishing 130 on the bull as van Gerwen waited on 32.
7-5 - van Gerwen is first to a finish, but misses the bull to take out 170 and then two subsequent darts at double eight, allowing Anderson to follow up a 180, which left 40, by taking out a third-dart double five to claim the win in dramatic fashion.