DARYL GURNEY and Rob Cross will meet in the semi-finals of the 2019 Betfred World Matchplay after coming through the final two quarter-final matches in Blackpool on Friday.
Gurney overcame Peter Wright 16-13 in a high-quality encounter to reach the semi-finals for the second time in three years, while Cross edged out Stephen Bunting 16-14 on a captivating night of darts at the Winter Gardens.
The meeting between Gurney and Cross will open Saturday’s mouth-watering semi-final line-up, before Glen Durrant looks to continue his fairy-tale debut challenge for the Phil Taylor Trophy against Michael Smith.
Wright was widely tipped to lift a first World Matchplay title on Sunday night, but his 20-match winning streak was ended by two-time TV title winner Gurney, who showed ice-cool composure to close out the victory.
“It might’ve looked like I showed composure on the outside, but inside I felt like a little kid,” Gurney admitted.
“I know I’m never going to be the best player in the world, but I’m a grafter who can beat the best players in the world.
“As usual I did it the hard way, but I’m through now and I’ve got a massive opportunity to win this title.”
Wright, who produced his tenth consecutive ton-plus average (104.57), landed the game’s first ton-plus checkout with a 120 to level the tie at 5-5 at the second interval.
With the game played at an incredibly high standard, there was never more than two legs between the pair all the way through to 13-all.
After Gurney held throw, the 27th leg proved decisive as the Northern Irishman fired in a 180 and followed it up with a 70 checkout to break throw and go within a leg of the match.
Gurney wrapped up the win in the following leg with the minimum of fuss, taking out 25 in two darts to avenge his 2017 semi-final defeat to Wright and continue his bid for a third TV crown.
Earlier in the night, Cross produced two world-class legs at the end of his tight clash with Bunting to make it through.
Former World Champion Cross, who failed to make it past the last 16 on his last two Blackpool appearances, led from the third leg and landed the tournament’s second 170 checkout on his way to a commanding 9-4 advantage.
Having come from behind to win his two previous matches, Bunting once again showed his resilience to win six of the next seven legs to level at 10-10.
The game appeared to be heading towards a tie-break as the following eight legs all went with throw to make it 14-14, only for Cross to hit two crucial 180s in each of the last two legs which he won in ten and 13 darts to deny Bunting a hat-trick of dramatic comebacks.
“Stephen was incredible, he was a real credit to himself up there but thankfully I managed to hold tight and come on strong at the end,” said Cross, who hit 13 180s.
“Towards the end of the game I managed to find my Premier League form and I think I showed nerves of steel.
“I’ve learnt a lot over the last two years and I’m starting to get there now. Hopefully there will be a happy ending for me here.”
Cross is now the 7/4 favourite with sponsors Betfred to take the £150,000 title on Sunday night, with Durrant 5/2 to add to his three Lakeside Championship titles with a maiden PDC televised triumph.
Smith is 7/2 as he chases the first televised ranking title of his career, with Gurney the 4/1 outsider ahead of his clash with world number two Cross.
2019 Betfred World Matchplay
Friday July 26
Rob Cross 16-14 Stephen Bunting
Daryl Gurney 16-13 Peter Wright
Saturday July 27 (1900 BST)
Rob Cross v Daryl Gurney
Glen Durrant v Michael Smith
Best of 33 legs
Sunday July 28 (1900 BST)
Durrant/Smith v Cross/Gurney
Best of 35 legs
Betfred Tournament Winner Odds
7/4 Rob Cross
5/2 Glen Durrant
7/2 Michael Smith
4/1 Daryl Gurney
Odds correct at time of writing and courtesy www.betfred.com. Subject to fluctuation.