Peter Wright and Michael Smith will meet in the final of the William Hill World Darts Championship on Monday evening after taking terrific semi-final triumphs at Alexandra Palace.
Wright defeated Gary Anderson 6-4 in a stunning semi-final, hitting 24 180s in the process – breaking the record for the most maximums hit in a match which was previously held by his opponent.
Smith got the better of James Wade with a dominant display in a 6-3 victory to advance to his second Ally Pally final, having lost to Michael van Gerwen in the 2019 decider.
Despite his historic 180 haul and an average of 104.38, Wright had to fight hard to fend off two-time World Champion Anderson, who missed a dart to force a deciding set and landed 15 maximums of his own as the pair created a new semi-final record of 39.
However, the 2020 winner held his nerve to reach his third World Championship final, sealing the victory with a 116 checkout.
“What a game of darts, it was phenomenal,” said Wright, who will face Smith for £500,000 and the Sid Waddell Trophy on Monday. “That was really hard and I’m exhausted after it to be honest.
“To get a win against Gary Anderson, one of the greatest darts players there has ever been, is amazing. It was an amazing game to play in. Hopefully, it was great for the crowd and all the viewers at home.
“Gary was coming back at me like a train, lucky enough I managed to derail him. That’s the best game I’ve ever played.”
Wright raced into a three-set lead before Anderson responded to a fabulous 138 finish from the world number two with a set-winning 92 checkout to reduce the deficit.
A 105 finish saw Anderson clinch the fifth set but Wright responded in style, missing double 12 for what would have been the tournament’s fourth nine-darter on the way to opening up a 4-2 lead.
Anderson clawed another set back but Wright took the eighth, which included his 18th 180 of the match – surpassing the record for the most maximums hit by a player in a World Championship semi-final, previously created by Smith in 2019.
Set nine went the way of Anderson by a 3-1 margin, but when he missed a dart at double five to force a deciding set, Wright capitalised as he levelled the set before taking out 116 to complete a brilliant victory.
Smith secured his place in his second World Championship final with a convincing defeat of Wade, who exited at the semi-final stage for a fourth time in his career.
2019 runner-up Smith earned a second tilt at the sport’s richest match with a 6-3 success against the 2021 UK Open champion, whose wait to play in an Ally Pally final continues.
Smith averaged over 100.98 and landed 16 180s in a classy display as he further highlighted his title credentials.
The former World Youth Champion raced into a 5-1 lead before fending off a mini fightback from Wade to progress to Monday’s final.
“That was a tough game,” said Smith, who had never previously beaten Wade in a knockout match at a televised tournament.
“He pushed me and it was about keeping my cool and I managed to do that. I kept my head.
“I’ve worked hard for this. You don’t get gifted things in life, I’ve earned it. I’m better mentally now and that’s made a difference.
“I’m looking forward to playing in the final again. I’m desperate for a chance to put things right from three years ago and now I’ve got it.”
Smith took the first set in a deciding leg and immediately broke Wade’s throw in set two, which he went on to win 3-1 with an average of 119.
Wade produced a crucial 121 checkout in the deciding leg of the third set but missed a dart a tops in the fifth leg of the fourth set, allowing Smith to come from two legs down as he opened up a 3-1 sets lead.
That cushion was stretched to three sets when the 2019 finalist took out 78 to clinch the fifth set 3-1, before racing through three unanswered legs to go within a set of the final.
Wade ended a seven-leg losing streak before taking out finishes of 85 and 160 to win the seventh set and keep his hopes alive.
The eighth set also went the way of Wade, but any hopes of a comeback were ended when Smith pinned double ten to complete a deserved triumph.
The final of the William Hill World Darts Championship will be contested between Smith and Wright at 2000 GMT on Monday January 3.
Wright is the 8/11 favourite with sponsors William Hill to win Monday’s final, with Smith the 11/10 outsider going into the contest.
2021/22 William Hill World Darts Championship
Sunday January 2 (1930 GMT)
Michael Smith 6-3 James Wade
Peter Wright 6-4 Gary Anderson
Monday January 3 (2000 GMT)
Michael Smith v Peter Wright
Best of 13 sets