MICHAEL VAN GERWEN's incredible 2018 continued as he clinched his third Players Championship title of the year at Event Five in Milton Keynes.
The Dutchman, who has been in imperious form this year with six titles to his name, brushed aside youngster Chris Dobey 6-2 to clinch the £10,000 top prize.
Having been absent from the last two Players Championship events, the Dutchman now makes it 21 Players Championship games unbeaten and continues his 100% record in these competitions.
The scoreline doesn’t tell the story of the final however, with Dobey averaging a staggering 109.6 to Van Gerwen’s 99.6, but missing costly darts at the double.
It looked a foregone conclusion in the early stages as the World Number One raced into a 4-0 lead, firing a 12 darter and capitalising on six missed darts from Dobey to break twice.
A ten dart leg, the best of the final, saw Dobey get his first leg on the board and gain a glimmer of hope.
He then broke throw to get a second on the board and trail by two.
But Van Gerwen produced a moment of brilliance in the seventh leg, landing a stunning 160 checkout with Dobey sitting on tops to move to within a leg of victory.
And in the eighth and final leg, the Dutchman struck D8 to seal the victory and a third Players Championship title of the 2018.
Dropping just 18 legs all day, Van Gerwen was at his clinical best at Arena MK.
However, he survived a scare in the opening game of the day, squeezing past Ricky Evans in a last-leg decider.
He followed this with comfortable 6-3 wins over Jeffrey De Zwaan and Keegan Brown, before seeing off Jimmy Hendriks 6-2.
Despite facing a 108 average from Gary Anderson, he brought an end to the newly crowned UK Open Champion’s 27-game unbeaten streak with a 6-1 victory.
And finally, a 103.7 average saw him overcome James Wade 6-2 to reach the final.
Dobey, playing in his second career ProTour final, was impressive throughout the day before falling at the final hurdle.
He started the day with a 6-0 whitewash victory over youngster Bradley Brooks, and backed that up with victory over James Wilson 6-4.
His biggest scalp of the day arguably came in the Last 32 stage as he saw off Dave Chisnall 6-2.
Next came a 6-4 victory over Stephen Burton, before seeing off Gabriel Clemens 6-2 to reach the Semi-Finals.
There he faced Ryan Searle, where he recovered from 5-4 down to reach the final, sealing the win with a stunning 112 checkout to break throw.
It was a welcome return to form on the floor for semi-finalist Wade, having reached the final in the first event of the year before three early exits.
The 34-year-old beat Richie Edhouse, John Goldie, Simon Stevenson, Wayne Jones and Premier League star Mensur Suljovic on his way.
Searle enjoyed his best run of 2018 by beating Mervyn King, Mark Dudbridge, Ron Meulenkamp, Alan Tabern and William O’Connor on his way to the Semi-Finals.
Elsewhere, it was a disappointing day for Rob Cross as the World Champion crashed out at the first round stage for the first time this year in a Players Championship, losing to Luke Woodhouse.
Gerwyn Price, who is still without a win in the Unibet Premier League, found further frustration on the floor as he crashed out in the first round to Micky Mansell.
Peter Wright, also struggling for form recently, was a second round casualty at the hands of Brendan Dolan.
The action continues on SUnday in Milton Keynes with Players Championship Six, streamed live throughout the day on PDCTV-HD.
See full results in the Match Centre at this link.
Players Championship Five
Saturday March 17, Arena MK, Milton Keynes
Michael van Gerwen 6-2 Jimmy Hendriks
Gary Anderson 6-2 Cameron Menzies
Mensur Suljovic 6-5 Terry Jenkins
James Wade 6-4 Wayne Jones
Gabriel Clemens 6-4 Brendan Dolan
Chris Dobey 6-4 Stephen Burton
William O'Connor 6-4 Matthew Edgar
Ryan Searle 6-1 Alan Tabern
Michael van Gerwen 6-1 Gary Anderson
James Wade 6-3 Mensur Suljovic
Chris Dobey 6-2 Gabriel Clemens
Ryan Searle 6-3 William O'Connor
Michael van Gerwen 6-2 James Wade
Chris Dobey 6-5 Ryan Searle
Michael van Gerwen 6-2 Chris Dobey