Rob Cross and Stephen Bunting completed the semi-final line-up at the Mr Vegas Grand Slam of Darts with convincing wins against Damon Heta and Stowe Buntz on Saturday evening.
The penultimate day of the £650,000 event saw the remaining quarter-final ties take place at WV Active Aldersley, after James Wade and Luke Humphries came through epic last eight ties on Friday.
Cross reeled off ten consecutive legs to dispatch an out-of-sorts Damon Heta 16-6 and progress to the last four, while Bunting ended Buntz’s Wolverhampton fairy-tale with a 16-8 success.
There will be a new name on the Eric Bristow Trophy in 2023, and Cross continued his bid for a fifth premier televised title with a comprehensive victory over the Australian number one.
“Unfortunately Damon didn’t play how he could,” admitted Cross, who averaged 98 and pinned 46% of his attempts at double to cap off another classy performance.
“I was averaging 97 at one stage and I didn’t even feel like I had turned up yet. In my head it was horrific! I couldn’t find that first dart.
“I wasn’t happy with my performance at the start, but I’ll take the win, wake up tomorrow and it’s a different day.
“Having the semi-finals and final in one day is going to be tough. I’ve never experienced it before so I can’t say I’ve had that luxury, but I feel in a really good place with my game.”
Heta’s combination finishing was a feature of his last 16 victory against Michael van Gerwen on Thursday, and he continued from where he left off in the early exchanges against Cross.
The former World Cup winner landed 120, 64 and 72 checkouts as the opening six legs were shared, although Cross seized the initiative at the second interval, producing a timely 12-darter to establish a 6-4 buffer.
Heta hit back to restore parity, but Cross punished a mid-game slump from the Australian to seize control, following a run of three straight legs with 116 and 89 checkouts to stretch his lead to 11-6.
Cross continued his relentless march towards victory as Heta’s game unravelled, and the Englishman extended his winning run to ten legs to ease through to his first Grand Slam semi-final.
The 2018 World Champion will now take on Bunting for a place in Sunday evening’s decider, after the Merseyside man produced a superb display of doubling to end Buntz’s remarkable campaign.
The American debutant won the pair’s Group E tussle last weekend, but Bunting avenged that result in some style, converting 62% of his attempts at double to break new ground in Wolverhampton.
“It means the world,” reflected the 38-year-old, who averaged 96 and crashed in six maximums to win through to his first premier televised semi-final since October 2021.
“There were some nerves tonight. I was a heavy favourite going into that game, and I still didn’t know what to expect from Stowe.
“I said to him at the end of the match, he’s a friend now. We’ve had two games on the stage, and I wish him all the best for the World Championship and the rest of his career.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of effort behind the scenes, but I couldn’t do it without the crowd cheering me on. I really appreciate the support and I cannot wait for the semi-finals now. "
Buntz missed darts at double for 147, 106 and 146 combinations in the early exchanges, and Bunting – aided by back-to-back 13-darters – capitalised to race into an early 4-1 lead.
CDC Continental Cup champion Buntz responded to level at six apiece, but Bunting suddenly found his range midway through the contest, winning seven of the next eight legs to seize control at 13-7.
Bunting’s 12-dart break of throw in leg 14 provided the spark, and he converted clinical 93, 101, 126 and 97 finishes during a blistering spell to move to the cusp of a place in the semi-finals.
The former Lakeside champion fired in another 12-darter on the bull to extend his lead to 14-7, and he continued the procession to end Buntz’s record-breaking run.
Sunday afternoon’s opening semi-final will see Humphries and Wade collide, before Bunting takes on Cross for a place in the evening’s showpiece, with a £150,000 top prize on offer to the eventual champion.
The action will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK, through the PDC's worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and Viaplay, and on PDCTV (excluding UK, Germany, Austria & Switzerland based subscribers).
2023 Mr Vegas Grand Slam of Darts
Saturday November 18
Stephen Bunting 16-8 Stowe Buntz
Rob Cross 16-6 Damon Heta
Sunday November 19
Afternoon Session (1300-1700 GMT)
James Wade v Luke Humphries
Stephen Bunting v Rob Cross
Best of 31 legs
Evening Session (1900-2100 GMT)
Wade/Humphries v Bunting/Cross
Best of 31 legs