Gerwyn Price and Michael Smith progressed to the quarter-finals of the William Hill World Championship on a thrilling day of action at Alexandra Palace on Wednesday.
The pair will clash in the last eight on New Year's Day after Price claimed a dominant victory over Dirk van Duijvenbode and Smith won a scintillating showdown with Jonny Clayton in a seventh set tiebreak.
Day 12 of the £2.5m tournament also saw the conclusion of the third round, with Gary Anderson, Callan Rydz and Alan Soutar sealing spots in the last 16.
World number one Price continued his defence of the Sid Waddell Trophy with a commanding win against his Dutch opponent, who claimed the opening set after Price has missed three darts to take it.
But the Welshman avenged those errors in style, running off a dozen straight legs to take the next four sets for a stunning victory which included five three-figure finishes.
Price took out fabulous checkouts of 132, 164 and a match-winning 136 in the last four legs of his superb surge as he reached the quarter-finals for the third successive year.
“I felt I should have won four-nil to be honest,” said Price, who averaged 96.66 in the triumph.
“I should have won the first set but I bombed the opportunity. Maybe that spurred me on because I gave myself a telling off in the break.
“To win 12 legs on the bounce gives me a lot of confidence. I felt good, kept Dirk quiet and kept the crowd quiet. I’m enjoying what I am doing and I hope they can enjoy it too.
“It’ll be a difficult quarter-final but I can take a lot of confidence from how I played tonight.”
Smith edged an Ally Pally classic to deny Clayton the chance to add the World Championship title to his four televised triumphs in the last 12 months.
The 2019 finalist remains in pursuit of his first major glory after winning a thrilling tussle with the in-form Welshman.
Clayton edged a thrilling first set in a deciding leg, before doubling his lead with a 3-1 success in set two.
Smith responded well, taking the third set by a two-leg margin before edging set four with a 13-darter to win the decider, and claiming the fifth set 3-1 to take the lead.
The duo then exchanged big finishes, with Smith’s 121 sandwiched between 161 and 105 checkouts from Clayton, who clinched set six on double 12.
Former World Youth Champion Smith moved to the brink of victory when he finished 112 to break in the third leg of the deciding set, only for Clayton to take out 120 to force a tie-break.
The Premier League, Masters and World Grand Prix champion then executed a 62 finish to place himself a leg from glory, but it was to be Smith’s day as checkouts of 72, 65 and 68 earned him a breath-taking win.
“That deserved to be the final, it was a great game,” said Smith, who landed 11 of the game’s 25 180s.
“Jonny is a class player but, going into the game, I just kept telling myself that I’ve got the game to beat anybody. I’ve always believed that.
“I won’t be getting carried away. It’s only one game and I had poor spells. Jonny played so well that he brought a better level out in me.
“In the past I’ve probably been guilty of wanting it too much so I’m not making that mistake this year. I will focus on my darts and see how far that attitude can take me.”
Gary Anderson claimed an incredible comeback victory to complete the last 16 line-up as Ian White let slip a three-set lead, allowing the two-time World Champion to advance.
White capitalised on a slow start from the Scotsman to open up a three-nil lead in sets when he took out 124 to win the third set’s deciding leg.
But Anderson reeled off six of the following seven legs to keep himself in contention, before punishing his opponent for a missed match-dart in set six, which last year’s runner-up won from two legs behind with his second 111 finish of the contest.
Anderson hit the front in the match for the first time by pinning double five in the third leg of the seventh set, going on to complete the great escape by landing double ten.
“I got away with it,” admitted Anderson, who will take on 2018 winner Rob Cross in the last 16 on Thursday evening.
“I wasn’t myself and I thought I was going home when I lost the first three sets but I didn’t think Ian played that well either.
“I always keep fighting and I always keep going to the end. Tonight, it paid off.
“Rob Cross hasn’t been great since winning the World Championship but in the last few months he’s been brilliant and I’ll have to up my game.”
Callan Rydz laid down his title credentials in emphatic style with a 4-0 blitz of two-time semi-finalist Nathan Aspinall.
In just his third Alexandra Palace appearance, Rydz maintained his record of not dropping a set in the tournament as he reached the last 16 for the first time.
The young Geordie dropped just four legs, ending the match with a 98.35 average and seven 180s to eliminate tenth seed Aspinall, who was once again playing with a strapped right arm.
"I'll take that win any day of the week against such a great player," said Rydz.
"The first two sets could've gone either way but I came out after the second interval and just went for it.
"I don't see myself as a serious contender [to win the title], I just take it game by game. If I'm in the final on January 3 then happy days."
Rydz fourth round opponent will be Alan Soutar, whose dream debut continued as he survived a match dart in a 4-3 defeat of seventh seed Jose de Sousa.
A 90 minute battle saw Soutar come back from 3-2 down, completing the comeback with a 136 checkout.
Soutar, who sealed his second round win over Mensur Suljovic with a 144 finish, squandered 11 darts to win the first set and ended the match with 45 missed attempts at the outer ring.
However, an out-of-sorts De Sousa was unable to finish the job after going 3-2 up in sets as he missed a match dart at double top in the set six decider.
Soutar found double eight at the sixth attempt to level at 3-3, before finishing the stronger of the pair in the deciding set.
"That was nerve-racking, it was horrible but when you win the feeling you get is absolutely incredible," said Soutar.
"Neither Jose or I were at our best but I'll take it, I'm absolutely buzzing."
Luke Humphries received a bye to the fourth round after Dave Chisnall withdrew following a positive Covid-19 test result.
The action continues on Thursday with the final day of darts in 2021, when the quarter-final line-up will be completed following the six remaining third round ties.
Humphries takes on Dobey in the afternoon session, while the evening session includes a clash of World Champions between Anderson and Cross, and Peter Wright's meeting with Ryan Searle.
The tournament is being broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK, through the PDC's worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and RTL7, and on PDCTV (excluding UK and Netherlands based subscribers).
2021/22 William Hill World Darts Championship
Wednesday December 29
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT)
3x Third Round
(R3) Alan Soutar 4-3 Jose De Sousa (2-3, 3-0, 3-1, 0-3, 2-3, 3-2, 3-1)
(R3) Luke Humphries bye Dave Chisnall
(R3) Callan Rydz 4-0 Nathan Aspinall (3-1, 3-1, 3-0, 3-2)
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
1x Third Round, 2x Fourth Round
(R3) Gary Anderson 4-3 Ian White (2-3, 0-3, 2-3, 3-1, 3-0, 3-2, 3-1)
(R4) Gerwyn Price 4-1 Dirk van Duijvenbode (1-3, 3-0, 3-0, 3-0, 3-0)
(R4) Michael Smith 4-3 Jonny Clayton (2-3, 1-3, 3-1, 3-2, 3-1, 1-3, 6-4)
Thursday December 30
Schedule of Play
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT)
3x Fourth Round
Raymond Smith v Mervyn King
Alan Soutar v Callan Rydz
Chris Dobey v Luke Humphries
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
3x Fourth Round
James Wade v Martijn Kleermaker
Gary Anderson v Rob Cross
Peter Wright v Ryan Searle
William Hill Tournament Outright Odds
Gerwyn Price 2/1, Michael Smith 7/2, Peter Wright 9/2, Rob Cross 8/1, Gary Anderson 14/1, Callan Rydz 14/1, James Wade 16/1, Ryan Searle 16/1, Chris Dobey 25/1, Luke Humphries 25/1
*Prices correct at time of send, subject to fluctuation. 18+. BeGambleAware.org