A Sussex player stunned the great Michael van Gerwen in an amazing contest last night (Saturday) to reach the William Hill World Darts Championship final.
Rob Cross, from St Leonards, overcame the world number one and defending champion by six sets to five in an epic semi-final after winning a sudden death 11th leg in the deciding set.
His reward is a showdown with 16-time world champion Phil Taylor in the showpiece final at Alexandra Palace, London, tomorrow (New Year’s Day) evening.
The match, which finally finished at gone midnight, produced a record number of maximum 180s for a World Championship semi-final, with Cross hitting 15 and van Gerwen 16.
Cross finished with a 100.97 average to van Gerwen’s 102.44 and hit 38% of his darts at a double to the Dutchman’s 32% as van Gerwen was left to rue missing six match darts.
The first eight sets all went with throw. Cross - playing in the sport’s blue riband event for the first time having only joined the Professional Darts Corporation ProTour this year - led on four occasions only to be pegged back four times.
The action really started to heat up in set three, which van Gerwen began with an 11-darter against the throw only for Cross to reply in kind before going on to clinch the set 3-1 with a 12-darter in leg four.
Cross, who landed nine 180s in the first four sets alone, pulled off another 12-darter in the fourth set, but van Gerwen took the set thanks to a 13-darter in the deciding leg.
The 27-year-old Cross produced a brilliant 161 outshot for a 12-darter in the deciding leg of the fifth set only for van Gerwen to rattle through set six in just 38 darts, winning the three legs in 13, 13 and 12 darts respectively.
Cross pulled off a superb 11-darter before going on to clinch the seventh set 3-1 with a tremendous 126 outshot. Van Gerwen, though, took the eighth set 3-0 to level the match again.
Voltage, as Cross is nicknamed, won the first two legs of the ninth set in 12 and 13 darts, but van Gerwen reeled off the next three legs to go ahead in sets for the first time at 5-4, winning the last two legs in 11 and 12 darts.
Cross followed a 177 with a double 18 to break at the start of the 10th set, and then hit back-to-back 180s followed by an 83 finish in two darts to claim the next leg. Van Gerwen held throw in the third leg, but missed six darts at a double in the fourth and Cross landed double four to clinch the set 3-1 and level at 5-5.
Cross missed the bull for a 170 outshot at the start of the deciding set and van Gerwen nailed 84 to break. Van Gerwen missed four darts at a double to go 2-0 up and Cross hit double four to break straight back.
Both men held their throw in 14 darts as 1-1 became 2-2. Cross hit 50 in two darts to lead 3-2 and then missed a dart at the bull for the match in leg six before van Gerwen landed double 18 for 3-3.
With the pressure reaching feverpitch, Cross followed a splendid 168 with double 10 to lead 4-3. Van Gerwen replied by hitting 171 followed by double 18 to make it 4-4.
After Cross missed two darts at double 16, van Gerwen landed double 12 to break throw for a 5-4 advantage. Van Gerwen missed five darts for the match in leg 10, though, and Cross nailed 52 in two darts for 5-5.
Cross won the throw at the bull for the right to throw first in the deciding 11th leg. He then missed a dart at double 16 for what would’ve been an extraordinary 140 checkout, but van Gerwen also missed one at double 16 and Cross hit double eight to win one of the greatest ever World Championship semi-finals.
It was the third time Cross has been taken to a final set in five matches en route to the final and the second time he has survived missed match darts from his opponent.
Cross, who has lost to van Gerwen four times in televised tournaments over the last couple of months, started the World Championship ranked 20th in the world and is now expected to rise into the top six.