ADRIAN LEWIS claimed his first PDC title in almost two years with an 8-3 victory over Raymond van Barneveld in the final of Players Championship 8 in Wigan on Sunday.
The final day of the ProTour weekend double-header saw Lewis claim the 25th PDC title of his career and his first since April 2017 at the Robin Park Tennis Centre.
Lewis dropped no more than three legs in a match on his run to glory which began with a 6-0 whitewash of Mark Dudbridge, before victories over Mark Webster, Glen Durrant and Luke Woodhouse saw him reach the quarter-finals.
There, the two-time World Champion saw off Vincent van der Voort 6-2, and in the semi-finals Lewis produced his best performance of the day, averaging 110.2 in his 7-1 demolition of Jonny Clayton to make it through to the final.
In a repeat of their 2016 World Championship semi-final, Lewis won six consecutive legs to get the better of five-time World Champion Van Barneveld to clinch the £10,000 top prize.
"That was one of the hardest games I've ever played, it was a bit like going back in time," said Lewis, who ended his run of five ranking final defeats.
"Raymond is still one of the world's best players, he's having a tough time at the moment because the Premier League can be so difficult when you're on a losing run.
"It can be hard to pick yourself up when you start dreading it, so fair play to Raymond today he showed a lot of fight to reach the final.
"These floor tournaments are the hardest ones to win so I'm delighted to get back to winning ways and now I'm looking forward to getting back where I know I should be."
The final between two legendary figures of the sport began with a stunning 138 checkout from Lewis to break throw in the opening leg, before holding throw to double his early advantage.
Van Barneveld, who won the two previous ranking finals between the pair, stormed back with back-to-back ton-plus checkouts of 110 and 118 to level, and then held throw to lead for the first time.
However, that was as good as it got for the Dutchman as Lewis relentlessly reeled off six successive legs, landing a majestic 149 checkout on the way, to end his wait for a PDC crown.
Van Barneveld fell just short in his bid for a first PDC title since his memorable 2014 Premier League triumph, but took the positives from his run to a first ranking final since 2015.
"I was really fighting today, it's really good for me to reach this final," said Van Barneveld, who last won a ranking event in 2013.
"Of course this gives me extra belief that anything is possible, but I want to say well done to Adrian.
"I have a lot of respect for the way he has battled back over the last year or so, and now I have to do the same in my final seven months in the game."
Van Barneveld, who ended a run of six straight defeats with victory over Shaun Carroll in the first round of Players Championship 7 on Saturday, survived match darts against Zoran Lerchbacher in the second round of his run to the final.
From there, the fans' favourite grew from strength to strength with victories over youngsters Geert Nentjes and Martin Schindler, before a 101.6 average saw him overcome Jan Dekker 6-2, which was followed by a dramatic 7-6 success over Keegan Brown in the semi-finals on a day which saw Van Barneveld return to form.
It was also a positive day for Brown, who reached his first ProTour semi-final of 2019, and for Clayton, who made it through to his second.
Gary Anderson suffered another day of frustration on his return from injury, crashing out at the first hurdle, while Peter Wright, Daryl Gurney, Michael Smith and Gerwyn Price also exited before the last 32 stage.
The next Players Championship events will be held across the weekend of April 6-7 at The Barnsley Metrodome, with live action shown on PDCTV-HD.
Van Barneveld will be among the Premier League stars returning to action in Berlin on Thursday, while the opening European Tour event of 2019, the European Darts Open in Leverkusen, will be shown on PDCTV-HD from March 22-24.
See full Players Championship 8 results in DartConnect.
Players Championship 8
Sunday March 16, Robin Park Tennis Centre, Wigan
Ian White 6-1 Nathan Rafferty
Jonny Clayton 6-3 Robert Marijanovic
Adrian Lewis 6-2 Luke Woodhouse
Vincent van der Voort 6-2 Alan Tabern
Andy Boulton 6-3 Mervyn King
Keegan Brown 6-3 Cristo Reyes
Jan Dekker 6-0 Harry Ward
Raymond van Barneveld 6-5 Martin Schindler
Jonny Clayton 6-3 Ian White
Adrian Lewis 6-2 Vincent van der Voort
Keegan Brown 6-1 Andy Boulton
Raymond van Barneveld 6-2 Jan Dekker
Adrian Lewis 7-1 Jonny Clayton
Raymond van Barneveld 7-6 Keegan Brown
Adrian Lewis 8-3 Raymond van Barneveld