Michael van Gerwen and Gerwyn Price produced superb performances to progress to Finals Day at the Interwetten European Darts Open, as Ricardo Pietreczko dumped out Peter Wright in an extraordinary clash in Leverkusen.
Day Two of the year's second European Tour event saw the 16 seeded players enter the fray at the Ostermann Arena, with Van Gerwen and Price the most impressive performers on Saturday.
Van Gerwen averaged over 108 to defeat five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld in a battle of the Dutch legends, landing four maximums en route to a 6-4 success.
“You can never underestimate Raymond van Barneveld,” said the reigning champion, who boasted a first nine-dart average of 123 to continue his bid for a sixth European Darts Open crown.
“Raymond is a fantastic player. You have to play well if you want to beat him, and I’m glad I did tonight.
“This is the first good game I’ve played on the European Tour this year, so I feel good now.
“Raymond said playing against me is like El Clasico, and I admire that. He’s had to battle really hard over the last year, but most importantly I’m still in the tournament, and that’s what I want.”
Van Gerwen will now take on his Premier League rival Dimitri Van den Bergh in a repeat of last year’s final, after the Belgian averaged 104.4 to celebrate a 6-2 rout of James Wade.
Elsewhere, Price continued his blistering form to win through a last-leg thriller against a resurgent Krzysztof Ratajski, recovering from 4-2 down to triumph with a 109 average.
Price – who averaged 114.96 to claim the Premier League spoils in Newcastle on Thursday – produced another imperious display to move through to a meeting with World Champion Michael Smith on Sunday.
“Everybody seems to find their A-game against me!” quipped Price, who crashed in four 180s and converted 50% of his attempts at double to edge out Poland’s number one.
“I know how well my game is going. I played really well in the Premier League on Thursday and I’m enjoying my darts.
“I just need to take my chances and towards the end of the game thankfully I did. I slipped up early on and let Krzysztof get in front, but hopefully my good form continues.”
Price’s next assignment will see him play world number one Smith, who defied a brief rally from Host Nation Qualifier Rene Eidams to complete a convincing 6-3 victory.
Martin Schindler also bowed out in Leverkusen, succumbing to a clinical William O’Connor, who converted a spectacular 160 checkout en route to a whitewash win over the diminutive German.
However, Pietreczko preserved home hopes in Leverkusen, recovering from 5-1 down to stun world number two Wright in a remarkable deciding-leg affair.
Wright produced 111, 100 and 86 finishes to establish a four-leg buffer, only to spurn six match darts in the latter stages, as Pietreczko progressed to the third round on the European Tour for the first time.
Earlier in the day, Rob Cross produced a sensational display to secure his first win on the European Tour in 2023, averaging over 105 to dispatch Ryan Joyce 6-1 and book his place in round three.
Dirk van Duijvenbode produced a flawless exhibition of finishing to see off Ted Evetts, averaging 104 and converting all six of his double attempts to set up a showdown against European Champion Ross Smith.
Smith came through a hard-fought contest against former Masters champion Joe Cullen to advance to Sunday's final stages, as Cullen became the first seed to exit at the Ostermann Arena.
Jonny Clayton was another high-profile casualty to crash out on Saturday afternoon, as Suffolk star Ryan Meikle kept his cool to close out a 6-3 win over the Welshman.
Dave Chisnall and Danny Noppert will lock horns for a place in the last eight in Leverkusen, after celebrating 6-2 wins over Jim Williams and Chris Dobey respectively.
Stephen Bunting made it back-to-back 6-5 victories this weekend to move through to the last 16, recovering from 3-1 down to account for Ryan Searle in a topsy-turvy encounter.
Damon Heta kicked off Saturday’s play with a 6-4 success against Andy Boulton, landing five 180s and defying a 170 checkout from the Scot to wrap up victory with a superb 143 finish.
Meanwhile, Josh Rock tasted victory on his first European Tour appearance of the year, punishing a below-par display from Ian White to cruise through to the third round.
There, Rock will meet his compatriot Brendan Dolan, who received a Bye through to the last 16 after top seed Luke Humphries was forced to withdraw due to medical reasons.
Sunday's final day of action will see the last 16 take place in the afternoon, before the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final are held in a bumper evening session.
The tournament is being broadcast live on Viaplay, DAZN and PDCTV (excluding Germany, Austria and Switzerland) and through bookmakers' websites worldwide.
2023 Interwetten European Darts Open
Saturday March 25
Damon Heta 6-4 Andy Boulton
Rob Cross 6-1 Ryan Joyce
Dave Chisnall 6-2 Jim Williams
Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-3 Ted Evetts
Ross Smith 6-4 Joe Cullen
Ryan Meikle 6-3 Jonny Clayton
Danny Noppert 6-2 Chris Dobey
Stephen Bunting 6-5 Ryan Searle
Gerwyn Price 6-5 Krzysztof Ratajski
Michael Smith 6-3 Rene Eidams
Ricardo Pietreczko 6-5 Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen 6-4 Raymond van Barneveld
Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-2 James Wade
William O'Connor 6-0 Martin Schindler
Josh Rock 6-2 Ian White
Brendan Dolan Bye
Sunday March 26
Afternoon Session (1300 local time)
Dave Chisnall v Danny Noppert
Damon Heta v Ryan Meikle
Michael Smith v Gerwyn Price
Michael van Gerwen v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Ricardo Pietreczko v Stephen Bunting
Rob Cross v William O'Connor
Dirk van Duijvenbode v Ross Smith
Brendan Dolan v Josh Rock
Evening Session (1900 local time)