Gerwyn Price and Raymond van Barneveld will renew their rivalry in the quarter-finals of the Cazoo Grand Slam of Darts after coming through dramatic last 16 ties in Wolverhampton on Wednesday.
Reigning champion Price recovered from 8-6 adrift to overcome Danny Noppert in a gruelling tussle, while Van Barneveld produced a stirring fightback from 5-2 down to stun Simon Whitlock.
Price survived two match darts in his Group A shoot-out against Dave Chisnall on Monday night, and he was forced to display further brinkmanship to fend off a spirited Noppert at the Aldersley Leisure Village.
Three-time Wolverhampton winner Price claimed six of the last seven legs following an inspired display of doubling, which saw him convert ten of his 13 attempts to triumph with a 100 average.
Noppert reeled off three consecutive legs during the first mini-session to establish a slender 3-2 lead, despite a spectacular 150 checkout from the Welshman in the opening leg.
Price was unable to make any inroads on the Dutchman’s throw until leg 12, when he followed up a timely 13-dart break with a crucial 74 checkout to reduce the arrears to 7-6.
However, Price produced a sensational four-leg spell to complete the comeback, restoring parity with a majestic 164 finish in leg 16, before sealing the deal with legs of 13 and 15 darts.
“Danny was the better player earlier on. I was fortunate to get through that game, but the 164 was massive,” said Price, who is targeting a fourth consecutive Grand Slam title at the Aldersley Leisure Village.
Price will now take on 2012 champion Van Barneveld in a repeat of their Group A epic earlier in the event, which saw the top seed succumb in a last-leg decider despite averaging 106.
“Raymond has been playing at the top level for the last 30 years, he knows how to win, so I need to improve on Friday night or Raymond is going to give me another lesson,” he added.
In the evening’s opener, Van Barneveld denied Whitlock in a thrilling battle of the veterans to secure a place in his first Grand Slam quarter-final since 2016.
The 55-year-old rolled back the years to reach the last eight in a first TV event since returning to the sport last February, defying a 101 average from Whitlock to prevail 10-8.
Whitlock started magnificently to lead 5-2 with a 109 average, but Van Barneveld rallied to restore parity at five apiece – punishing crucial missed doubles from the Australian in legs eight and ten.
The five-time World Champion continued his charge with a 12-darter to lead 6-5, but Whitlock responded superbly, converting a brace of 112 finishes to draw level at eight apiece.
Van Barneveld then regained the lead in an edgy penultimate leg which saw both players squander opportunities, before converting a classy 81 finish on the bull to spark jubilant celebrations.
“How good was Simon tonight? All credit to him, he was fantastic, but I’m so happy with this win,” said Van Barneveld, who averaged 97, landed six 180s and pinned 55% of his attempts at double.
“I played really well. I am sure everyone watching at home would have loved it to go to a last leg, but fortunately for me that bullseye went in at the end.”
Elsewhere, Michael Smith and Joe Cullen will also battle it out for a place in Sunday’s semi-finals, after dumping out Rob Cross and Dirk van Duijvenbode respectively on a high-quality night of action.
Smith survived a late onslaught from Cross to complete a hard-fought 10-8 victory and progress to a fourth consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final.
The St Helens star punished a sluggish start from Cross to establish an early 4-1 cushion, although the former World Champion soon reduced the arrears to 6-5 with legs of 15, 14, 12 and 13 darts.
Smith restored his three-leg buffer to move two legs away from a place in the last eight, but once again Cross fought back, following up 68 and 108 checkouts with a 14-darter to square the tie at 8-8.
However, fourth seed Smith was indebted to his clinical combination finishing in the latter stages, converting 82 and 78 finishes in successive legs to confirm his progression.
“Rob is a World Champion for a reason so I knew it was going to be tough, and I couldn’t put him away,” conceded Smith, a two-time semi-finalist in Wolverhampton.
“I’ve made the quarter-finals or better in the last four years, and that gave me belief. I’m competing against the best players in the world, so it should be fun!”
Cullen, meanwhile, stormed through to his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final with a resounding 10-4 success against Dirk van Duijvenbode, as he continued his bid for a second televised crown of 2022.
The Masters champion conjured up a stunning ten-dart leg to lead 4-1, and extended his lead to 8-2 with a sequence of four straight legs, featuring 104 and 129 finishes.
Van Duijvenbode doubled his tally with back-to-back legs in the closing stages, but his late rally came in vain as Cullen completed the job via double seven.
“I felt like I needed to keep playing well because I felt like Dirk was going to kick into gear at some stage,” reflected Cullen, who averaged 95 and converted two ton-plus checkouts to advance.
“I’m looking forward to playing Michael again on Friday. It’s almost a new tournament now, and I think I’ve got as good a chance as anyone. I’m here to win.”
The second round action concludes on Thursday night, as three-time champion Michael van Gerwen takes on Northern Irish prospect Josh Rock in the evening’s headline act.
Luke Humphries meets European Champion Ross Smith in another tasty tie, Jonny Clayton plays Scottish debutant Alan Soutar, while World Grand Prix runner-up Nathan Aspinall faces Jermaine Wattimena.
Cazoo Grand Slam of Darts
Wednesday November 16
4x Second Round Matches
Raymond van Barneveld 10-8 Simon Whitlock
Michael Smith 10-8 Rob Cross
Gerwyn Price 10-8 Danny Noppert
Joe Cullen 10-4 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Thursday November 17 (1900 GMT)
4x Second Round Matches
Nathan Aspinall v Jermaine Wattimena
Jonny Clayton v Alan Soutar
Michael van Gerwen v Josh Rock
Luke Humphries v Ross Smith
Best of 19 legs