MICHAEL VAN GERWEN stormed to the top of the Unibet Premier League table with a ruthless 8-2 rout of Rob Cross as Gerwyn Price delighted his home crowd at Cardiff's Motorpoint Arena on Thursday.
Reigning champion Van Gerwen trailed Cross by a point going into their top-of-the-table encounter, and found himself 2-0 down as the world number two made the brighter start.
Cross then missed tops for a 125 finish in a key third leg, allowing Van Gerwen in for a 13-darter to get off the mark began a run of eight successive legs.
Those legs included a 12-darter which featured scores of 180 and 174 to set up a 90 finish and only one which needed more than 15 darts in a brutal run as he averaged 108 in returning to the top of the table.
"It's nice to be back at the top of the table and it's good for my confidence," said Van Gerwen. "Rob's one of my biggest rivals and I think I played well, so I deserve this.
"It's really important to me because I've been top for the last five years and that's why this game was important for me to knock him off the top.
"Rob kicked off quite well and his finishing was good but he had one chance with the 125 to go 3-0 up and then I took advantage.
"I put him under pressure and I'm really proud of that performance. I kept going and didn't make a lot of mistakes, and it felt good."
Price delighted his home crowd with an 8-5 win over Michael Smith which leaves the 2018 finalist six points adrift of the top four with just four league nights remaining.
Smith defied the vocal Welsh support to power home a 170 finish in leg three as he edged 2-1 up, only to see Price match that with the maximum checkout in the fourth as he levelled in style.
The pair shared the opening eight legs before a stunning ninth saw both players land two 180s, with Price's seven perfect darts helping him break to move 5-4 up.
He extended that lead to 7-4 before Smith kept his hopes alive with a 70 checkout, but tops saw Price seal a fifth win of the campaign to strengthen his Play-Off challenge.
"I'm thrilled to get a win and especially in Cardiff," said Price. "The crowd were fantastic and helped me through. It means a lot to me and I played some pretty decent darts too I think.
"I never feel pressure but early in that game I was up against it. I settled down and I'm glad I got over the line. The 170 was crucial and a big shot in the game.
"Michael stuck to his guns and played pretty well but thankfully I got the win. I'm targeting the top four and I think it's possible but I want to keep winning."
James Wade sits in third position, ahead of Price on Leg Difference, after racing past Peter Wright with an 8-2 success to follow his double Players Championship win last weekend with another triumph.
Wright, who had changed his darts to a set which featured ultra-fine points, led 1-0 before Wade took three in a row as a 12-darter - which featured two 180s - moved him 3-1 up.
Wright finished 78 to hit back in leg five, but Wade took out a match-high 104 for a break of throw amongst a five-leg burst to seal both points.
"It's a really good win," said Wade. "My average wasn't as good as I'd hoped but it's a win.
"As soon as Peter started using the darts which were wobbling, I thought 'I've got you'.
"Peter is one of the best players in the world when he dedicates himself to a certain set of darts, and sometimes he changes when he's not as confident in himself."
Mensur Suljovic boosted his Play-Off hopes and returned to winning ways with an 8-5 defeat of Daryl Gurney, denting the Northern Irish star's top-four chances in a key battle.
A tight contest saw the opening six legs shared, before two breaks of throw in three legs for Suljovic saw him pull clear at 5-3 and 7-4.
Gurney finished 68 to hit back, but double eight for Suljovic sealed his sixth win of the season.
"It's a brilliant feeling," said Suljovic, who joins Wade and Price on 14 points. "I won the Champions League here, it's a nice city and I love it.
"It was a hard game but I gave my best and played okay, and it's good to win. Last week was not my best form but this week I was better."
The Unibet Premier League continues on Thursday April 25 at Arena Birmingham, where Wade is aiming to complete a seasonal double over Van Gerwen.
Cross will play Price in another top-four clash, while Suljovic meets Smith and Gurney plays Wright. For tickets, visit www.arenabham.co.uk or call 0844 338 0338.
Unibet Premier League
Night 12 - Thursday April 18
Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
Mensur Suljovic 8-5 Daryl Gurney
Rob Cross 2-8 Michael van Gerwen
Michael Smith 5-8 Gerwyn Price
Peter Wright 2-8 James Wade
Night 13 - Thursday April 25
Mensur Suljovic v Michael Smith
Rob Cross v Gerwyn Price
Daryl Gurney v Peter Wright
James Wade v Michael van Gerwen
Tickets: 0844 338 0338 or click here