PETER WRIGHT overcame a huge scare against Jonny Clayton to book his spot in the Unibet European Championship quarter-finals alongside Daryl Gurney, Michael Smith and Rob Cross in Hasselt on Saturday night.
Wright is aiming to follow up his 2017 successes in the UK Open and German Darts Masters with a third televised victory in the £400,000 tournament in Belgium.
However, he had to come from 4-0 down to secure his spot in Sunday's finals day with a 10-8 win over emerging Welshman Jonny Clayton in an intriguing second round tie.
Clayton announced his intentions with a 14-darter to break throw in the opening leg, took out 61 to double his lead and then twice capitalised on Wright missed doubles to open up a four-leg cushion.
Wright took out a 14-darter to get off the mark, and though Clayton edged 5-2 up, the Scot then took three successive legs to level, twice stepping in to punish his opponent's missed doubles before firing in a 13-darter.
He then edged a scrappy 11th leg to move ahead for the first time, with the cat-and-mouse continuing when a 13-darter from Wright was cancelled out by Clayton as the Welshman regained the edge at 8-7.
Three misses at tops in leg 16, though, proved costly for Clayton as Wright stepped in on double eight to level, hit six perfect darts in an 11-darter to move back in front at 9-8 and completed his comeback on double four.
Wright's colourful outfit featured a series of cats on his trousers, and he admitted: "Cats get nine lives and I definitely used all of them up against Jonny!
"We were both battling - I missed doubles in the first few legs and then Jonny was missing, it was like a game of table tennis going back and forth.
"Jonny's been fantastic for the last month and a half and I'm lucky to come through that. I rode my luck there but hopefully I can go all the way now on Sunday."
After being denied a spot in his first televised quarter-final, Clayton admitted: "I had my chances on doubles and didn't take them, and if you're playing against the quality of Peter you have got to take those chances.
"I'm disappointed to lose but it's a little step closer to something bigger."
Wright will now play Daryl Gurney in the quarter-finals on Sunday afternoon, following the World Grand Prix champion's 10-6 win over resurgent Stephen Bunting at the Ethias Arena.
Bunting made a bright start to lead 2-1, but Gurney levelled before taking out key finishes of 112 - to move ahead for the first time - and 121 on his way to a 5-2 cushion.
Bunting hit back to one leg behind, but was crucially never able to level as he missed five darts at a double in leg 12 to allow Gurney into a 7-5 advantage.
Bunting took the next, but finishes of 81, 80 and 67 in the next three saw Gurney seal his spot in Sunday's last eight.
"It was a tight game," said Gurney. "I'm just glad to get over the finish line in that game and hopefully I can keep this going on Sunday now.
"Stephen played really well there and I'm glad to see him playing the way he's playing.
"By his standards he's been below-par but I love to see him coming back like that and playing proper darts, and it's good for the PDC and for darts."
Michael Smith won through to his first European Championship quarter-final in a dramatic 19-leg contest with Benito van de Pas, who hit back from four legs behind to force a decider before seeing his rival take out 118 to progress.
Van de Pas opened the game with a 124 bull finish and shared the opening four legs before Smith pulled clear with four in a row.
The Dutch youngster hit back with three straight legs only to miss his chance to level in leg 16 as three doubles went begging, and though Smith missed two match darts as Van de Pas hit back to nine-all, it was Smith who had the final say.
"It was a battle and luckily enough my doubles were good," said Smith.
"From being 8-4 up to see Benito get level, a year ago I might have given up and this is the type of game I'd have lost but I kept fighting and took my chance in the last leg.
"I've shown that I've got that C-game where I can struggle and still win but I want to win this. I've done the hard work all year to be the number three seed and I don't want to throw that away."
Rob Cross reached his first televised quarter-final with a 10-7 win over Dave Chisnall, who battled on despite a back injury which hampered his challenge.
Cross, though, was always in control after winning the opening two legs and five of the first six, which included a 120 checkout and a neat 82 combination of bullseye and double 16.
Chisnall took three of the next four as he pulled back to 6-4, and after Cross moved 8-4 up the St Helens man claimed three in a row to reduce the gap to 8-7.
Cross, though, found an extra gear to finally close out the win, following a 13-darter with a 100 finish to seal his last eight spot.
"I'm happy to be through," said Cross. "I felt Chizzy was struggling and it was weird because you expect him to play like he normally does.
"That didn't happen and it maybe affected me a bit. Today was a bit of a weird one and it was hard, but tomorrow will be better."
Chisnall revealed: "I played Kim Huybrechts two weeks ago on the European Tour and when I was getting my darts out I pulled my back then. It came on after about three legs but Rob was in control anyway and I'm not blaming it.
"I battled through it and I was happy to get seven legs."
The £400,000 tournament concludes on Sunday in Hasselt, with the afternoon session's quarter-finals followed by the semi-finals and final in the evening session.
Reigning champion Michael van Gerwen's bid to claim a fourth successive European Championship win continues as he opens the quarter-finals against Simon Whitlock, before 2016 finalist Mensur Suljovic plays Kyle Anderson.
The £400,000 tournament is being held from October 26-29, with coverage live on ITV4 as well as through the PDC's series of worldwide broadcast partners and for PDCTV-HD Rest of the World Subscribers.
Tickets for the Unibet European Championship are available at the Ethias Arena, or via www.pdc-europe.tv.
Unibet European Championship
Saturday October 28
Michael Smith 10-9 Benito van de Pas
Rob Cross 10-7 Dave Chisnall
Stephen Bunting 6-10 Daryl Gurney
Peter Wright 10-8 Jonny Clayton
Sunday October 29
Afternoon Session (1.45pm local time, 12.45pm UK time)
Michael van Gerwen v Simon Whitlock
Kyle Anderson v Mensur Suljovic
Peter Wright v Daryl Gurney
Rob Cross v Michael Smith
Best of 19 legs
Evening Session (8pm local time, 7pm UK time)
Van Gerwen/Whitlock v Anderson/Suljovic
Wright/Gurney v Cross/Smith
Best of 21 legs
Best of 21 legs
Benito van de Pas
Daryl Gurney & Stephen Bunting
Pictures by Kelly Deckers