Ryan Joyce clinched his second PDC ranking title with victory in Thursday's Players Championship 26, after recovering from 6-4 down to stun Gerwyn Price in a thrilling decider.
Joyce, appearing in his third ranking final of 2023, looked set to be edged out by the irrepressible Welshman, only to launch a stunning late fightback to end his three-year wait for a PDC title in Barnsley.
The Newcastle-upon-Tyne star had claimed his previous ranking title in July 2020 during the PDC Summer Series as the sport returned from the Covid-19 pandemic, and scooped £12,000 this time around after finally claiming glory again.
Price seized the early initiative in an exciting final with back-to-back 14-dart legs, and a sublime 11-dart hold in leg four saw him restore his two-leg buffer.
Joyce responded with a 12-darter and also converted a stylish 131 checkout in leg seven, but he was unable to make inroads on the Price throw, as the Premier League runner-up stretched his lead to 6-4.
However, Joyce turned the contest on its head during a crucial three-leg spell to move to the brink of victory at 7-6, having produced a stunning 153 set-up shot in leg 12 to break Price’s resistance.
The 2021 World Champion hit back with a nerveless 110 skin-saver to force a decider, although Joyce was undeterred, replying with a 107 finish in a dramatic finale to secure the victory.
“I played really well today,” reflected Joyce, a two-time runner-up on the Players Championship circuit in 2023.
“This is one of the best days of my career. It’s up there with the one [title] I won a few years back, and hopefully I can build on this now.”
Joyce, who now moves back inside the world’s top 40, attributes a change in lifestyle and some advice from Masters champion Chris Dobey as the catalysts for his revival over recent months.
“I have been trying to eat more healthily and lose a little bit of weight," continued the former World Championship quarter-finalist.
"I’ve lost a couple of stone since June and it does make you feel better, it gives you the energy to practice more.
“I also have to give credit to Chris Dobey. I felt like I was struggling with my scoring a few months ago, and he really helped me.
“I cannot underestimate the power of that five-minute lesson with Chris. It was the turning point for me."
Joyce kicked off his Players Championship 26 campaign with victory over Bedlington ace Callan Rydz, before averaging almost 106 in a deciding-leg win over Alan Soutar.
The 38-year-old continued his charge with comeback wins over Daniel Klose, Mervyn King and Jose de Sousa, rallying from 5-3 down to deny the Portuguese in a dramatic last eight tie.
Joyce then won through a high-quality semi-final showdown against Ritchie Edhouse, recording winning legs of 12, 12, 14, 14, 13, 14 and 11 darts to triumph with a 105 average.
Price, meanwhile, was bidding to become the first player to win four Players Championship titles this year, and he opened his challenge with a hard-fought victory against Graham Usher.
After whitewashing Ross Montgomery in round two, Price powered through to the last eight with 6-1 routs against Mario Vandenbogaerde and Chris Landman, averaging 106 and 103 in the process.
The Welshman then won five straight legs to deny Dobey in the quarter-finals, before prevailing in an epic semi-final against Luke Humphries - a repeat of the recent World Grand Prix final in which the Englishman had taken the title.
Humphries fired in a majestic 139 outshot to force a last-leg shoot-out, only for Price to conjure up his third 11-dart leg of the contest to progress with an average nearing 106.
World Grand Prix champion Humphries had beaten Wednesday’s winner Gary Anderson in the quarter-finals, averaging 105 to halt the Scot’s 18-match winning run on the PDC ProTour.
Humphries was joined in the semi-finals by an impressive Edhouse, who claimed the scalps of former World Cup winner Damon Heta, UK Open champion Andrew Gilding and two-time World Champion Peter Wright.
Wright boosted his hopes of Cazoo Players Championship Finals qualification by reaching the last eight alongside his World Cup partner Anderson, with De Sousa and Dobey crashing out at the same stage.
Nevertheless, Dobey won arguably the game of the day in Barnsley, defying a 111.83 average from Rob Cross to triumph with a 107 average of his own in a breath-taking third round encounter.
This week's Players Championship action continues with Players Championship 27 on Friday, with coverage from all four streaming boards broadcast live on PDCTV.
2023 Players Championship 26
Thursday October 19
The Barnsley Metrodome
Ryan Joyce 6-3 Mervyn King
Jose de Sousa 6-3 Keane Barry
Ritchie Edhouse 6-3 Andrew Gilding
Peter Wright 6-3 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Luke Humphries 6-3 Matt Campbell
Gary Anderson 6-3 Lee Evans
Gerwyn Price 6-1 Chris Landman
Chris Dobey 6-2 Robert Grundy
Ryan Joyce 6-5 Jose de Sousa
Ritchie Edhouse 6-4 Peter Wright
Luke Humphries 6-2 Gary Anderson
Gerwyn Price 6-3 Chris Dobey
Ryan Joyce 7-4 Ritchie Edhouse
Gerwyn Price 7-6 Luke Humphries
Ryan Joyce 8-7 Gerwyn Price