Michael Van Gerwen survived five match darts from Luke Humphries as he began his quest for a sixth Masters title in dramatic fashion.
A stunning burst from Humphries saw him win four legs in a row to move within a famous win at 9-7, but the debutant’s five missed doubles in leg 18 proved costly.
Van Gerwen took advantage of Humphries’ misses with a crucial last dart double ten for an 80 checkout to force a decider in which he outscored his opponent.
“Games like this are always tough,” said Van Gerwen. “I was far from my best tonight, I struggled to get myself going.
“I was trying too hard, I don’t know why. I made mistakes and you can only blame yourself. I have to do better tomorrow, simple as that.”
The Dutchman will now face Joe Cullen, who produced one of his finest ever displays in a televised event in a 10-1 thrashing of Gary Anderson.
A ruthless performance from Cullen saw him average 106.3, pinning three ton-plus checkouts in successive legs – including a 167 combination – and missing just three double attempts.
The 2017 runner-up had no answer to the barrage from Cullen, who is into the quarter-finals for the second time in his career.
“Everything I went for today I felt like I was going to hit,” said Cullen.
“Normally my game is about scoring heavily to give myself time to hit a double but today my doubles were going in first or second time.
“It’s a brilliant feeling to have, especially on a TV stage. I don’t want to be remembered as a nearly man so it’s time I won a big one, maybe it will be tomorrow.”
Sunday’s action on the decisive final day will begin at 1245 GMT with the quarter-finals, before the semi-finals and final take place from 1900 GMT.The Ladbrokes Masters is being broadcast live on ITV4 in the UK, through the PDC’s worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and Viaplay, and on PDCTV (excluding UK and Netherlands based subscribers).
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