PHIL TAYLOR is now just two wins away from claiming a 17th and final William Hill World Darts Championship after disposing of Gary Anderson in Friday's quarter-finals, where Michael van Gerwen won a thriller and Rob Cross and Jamie Lewis secured last-four spots.
On a dramatic quarter-finals day at Alexandra Palace, retiring star Taylor again captured the headlines as his bid to end his glittering career with one final triumph.
Taylor's consistency was key as he punished Anderson early on to go 4-1 up, which proved to be too much of a gap for the two-time World Champion to bridge despite a valiant effort from the Scot, who had appeared in the last three finals.
The legendary 57-year-old could be on a collision course with Van Gerwen in the decider after the defending champion emerged with a 5-4 win from a toe-to-toe clash with fellow Dutchman Raymond van Barneveld.
Taylor, the 16-time World Champion, can still finish his career in the best possible fashion as he averaged 102, hit 12 180s and more importantly took out some crucial finishes, including a 126 in seeing off Anderson in a repeat of the 2015 final.
All the damage was done early as Taylor managed to win six legs on the spin when compiling that 4-1 advantage and, although Anderson came firing back with consecutive sets, he fell just short.
"It was a struggle, my energy levels went towards the end, but I knew I just had to keep putting him under pressure," said Taylor, who now faces Jamie Lewis for a place in the final.
"I think the pressure's off me and on the other players, and that's what I thought with Gary. He's defending a World Championship money-wise, and it could drop him down the rankings so there's a lot more pressure.
"It's the greatest feeling in the world and I'm going to miss it after next week but I've been around for 30 years now.
"I'm absolutely fine and I'm loving it."
Lewis is next up for Taylor after the young Welshman became the first preliminary round winner to ever make the semi-finals with a 5-0 whitewash of Darren Webster.
Lewis only got a chance to make the event after Dimitri Van den Bergh became World Youth Champion to open up an extra space in the PDPA Qualifiers, but after winning a third-place play-off the youngster has turned that chance into a truly special run.
"I can't believe it," said Lewis, who will pocket at least £85,000 from the tournament. "I came into this hoping to have a good run but to make the semis is a dream come true.
"I still think there's room for improvement, but I know if I get into the right flow I can play as good as anybody.
"I thought it was going to be really close, but luckily I took out the right shots at the right time."
The meeting between Van Gerwen and Van Barneveld did not draw the record-breaking averages and huge scoring of their epic meeting 12 months ago, but was equally dramatic as the reigning champion was continually pegged back by his rival.
Van Gerwen averaged 103 to Van Barneveld's 98, but the drama was more significant than the stats as the world number one missed a dart to lead 4-1 before watching the five-time World Champion draw level at 3-3.
With 18 breaks of throw anything could happen at any time - Van Gerwen missed a dart for the match to allow Van Barneveld to level, before the more experienced man missed three key darts at double 16 in the final set as he fell to an agonising defeat.
"In the beginning I didn't feel too well, Raymond was playing well and I was struggling a little bit," said Van Gerwen.
"But I think everyone could only dream about a quarter-final like this as we both averaged quite a good standard and we both hit big finishes at the right time."
Shooting star Rob Cross' World Championship debut continues into the last four after the former electrician, who had risen to 20th in the world on his debut year as a professional, overcame Dimitri Van den Bergh in another nine-set epic.
Cross was in control at 4-1 ahead only to see World Youth Champion Van den Bergh come storming back to tie the game up at four-all with some sensational darts.
Cross, though, regained his composure to claim the deciding set and win through to the semi-finals, where he now faces Van Gerwen in a repeat of October's European Championship final.
"Honestly, the best player lost," said a magnanimous Cross. "I don't know what happened but I just felt lethargic and I went inside myself and it wasn't good enough.
"I just wasn't right, for whatever reason and Dimitri kept punishing me, fair play to him he was brilliant."
Van Gerwen is now the 8/15 tournament favourite with sponsors William Hill, with Taylor 3/1, Cross 8/1 and Lewis the 12/1 outsider after starting the event at 500/1 to claim the title.
William Hill World Darts Championship
Friday December 29
Jamie Lewis 5-0 Darren Webster
Dimitri Van den Bergh 4-5 Rob Cross
Michael van Gerwen 5-4 Raymond van Barneveld
Phil Taylor 5-3 Gary Anderson
Saturday December 30 (7.30pm)
Jamie Lewis v Phil Taylor
Michael van Gerwen v Rob Cross