MICHAEL VAN GERWEN had to survive a scare on day two of the Melbourne Darts Masters, beating Simon Whitlock 10-8 to book his place in the semi-finals.
Michael Smith, Gary Anderson and Peter Wright also progressed in front of a packed Hisense Arena to set up an intriguing last day in Melbourne.
The match of the night saw world number one Van Gerwen take on Australian favourite Whitlock with the Dutch ace winning through despite trailing 8-4 at one point.
The match began with Van Gerwen looking the better of the two taking a 2-0 lead before Whitlock broke back to level.
At the break Van Gerwen lead 4-3 but the best was yet to come.
After returning to the stage Whitlock seemed rejuvenated winning five legs in a row including finishes of 120 and then 170 to take a 8-4 lead.
The Van Gerwen comeback then began as he clawed his way back to an 8-7 deficit and it was in the 16th leg where the real drama took place.
Whitlock began the leg with six perfect darts and looked poised to go a leg away from the win but five missed darts allowed the Dutchman to step in to break back and level the match.
Whitlock then missed a further three darts at a double in the 17th leg to once again go within a leg of the win as Van Gerwen pinned double one to lead 9-8.
The final leg of the match saw Whitlock miss a chance yet again and was punished by the two-time World Champion who booked his place in the semi-finals.
“I missed too many shots at doubles early on in the match and gave him the chance to take control,” said Van Gerwen who finished the match with a 37% success rate on the doubles.
“The crowd were with him tonight and I have to take that on the chin but it’s annoying when they don’t support me,” joked the 29-year-old.
“Tonight was tough and I need to be better tomorrow and not make as many mistakes but I will be ready”
Van Gerwen will now face Peter Wright in the last four after the Scot made it to the semi-finals in Melbourne for the second time in as many years after beating Raymond van Barneveld 10-4.
Wright, who made it to the final of the inaugural Melbourne Darts Masters in 2017 where he lost out in the decider to Phil Taylor got out of the gate quickly against Van Barneveld, taking a 3-1 lead.
Barneveld fought back to level at 3-3 with a 119 checkout on the bull but would go on to lose seven of the next eight legs as he bowed out of the tournament.
An average of 101.91, including six maximums rounded off a solid night at work for world number two Wright.
“I made it to the final here last year and lost to Phil but hopefully this time it will be my year in Melbourne,” said Wright after the victory.
The 48-year-old, notorious for regularly changing his darts joked that he may use another new set up tomorrow.
“It depends how I feel when I wake up. If I sleep funny on my arm I might decide to use a completely different set of darts, it’s all about how I feel at the time.”
Michael Smith won four legs on the spin to recover from 9-6 down to beat Rob Cross in the quarter-finals in Melbourne.
The pair shared yet another classic encounter, reminiscent of their clash at the World Championship in December, this time with Smith coming out on top.
The start of a game was a story of hit and miss, Cross hitting his doubles and Smith missing his, with the World Champion taking an early 4-1 lead courtesy of a 150 finish.
Smith then pulled a leg back with a special finish of his own, taking out 132 on the bullseye to close the gap to two.
A strange passage of play followed with six consecutive breaks of throw with cross eventually then going on to lead 9-6 and look set to take his place in the last four.
Smith had other ideas though, taking out 120, 107, 99 and then 122 to claim a hugely impressive win.
“The last four legs were great, I couldn’t really ask for a better finish to a match.
“I always believe, so I wasn’t too worried when I was behind but my finishes weren’t good enough at the start.
“I kept missing chances to level the match and putting in bad scores when it mattered but in the end it all came good,” said Smith.
The former World Youth Champion will now face Gary Anderson in the last four after the World Matchplay Champion overcame Damon Heta 10-7 at the Hisense Arena.
Heta had produced a shock of sorts the night before in beating best friend Kyle Anderson but was unable to repeat the performance against the Australian namesake.
Heta did manage to hold his own in the opening stages of the match, going in to the break trailing 4-3.
However, Anderson came out after the stoppage with the bit between his teeth racing in to an 8-3 lead and taking firm control of the match.
The Australian did manage to produce a comeback though, winning four of the next five legs to close the gap to two and give himself hope.
Anderson did then seal the deal in the next leg but spoke of his disappointment after the match.
“That wasn’t anywhere near as good as last night and I got away with it a bit,” said an honest Anderson.
“Damon will be disappointed because he didn’t score as well as he did against Kyle last night but the boy can play.
“I just need to get some rest and come back tomorrow and see how we go, Michael and I obviously know each other very well but if I play as well as I can I win, if I don’t then it’s an early night for me.”
The Melbourne Darts Masters concludes on Sunday with the semi-finals taking place at the Hisense Arena before the decider is played out to crown a champion.
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Saturday August 11 (7pm)
Schedule of Play
Rob Cross 9-10 Michael Smith
Peter Wright 10-4 Raymond van Barneveld
Gary Anderson v Damon Heta
Michael van Gerwen 10-8 Simon Whitlock
Best of 19 legs
Sunday August 12 (7pm)
Michael Smith v Gary Anderson
Michael van Gerwen v Peter Wright