Michael van Gerwen produced a record-breaking display to continue his defence of the Cazoo Players Championship Finals title on a thrilling day of action on Saturday.
Day Two of the £600,000 event saw the second and third rounds take place at Butlin’s Minehead Resort, and it was reigning champion Van Gerwen who stole the headlines.
The Dutch superstar produced the highest average in Players Championship Finals history in his second round rout of Ross Smith, averaging 118.52 to celebrate a stunning 6-1 success.
Van Gerwen registered legs of 10, 18, 12, 11, 12 and 12 darts to cap off a breath-taking display, with European Champion Smith averaging over 104 in defeat.
The reigning champion was less spectacular in his third-round victory against Mario Vandenbogaerde, despite winning six of the last eight legs to run out a 10-6 winner against the Belgian.
“When things go well, I know how well I can play,” declared Van Gerwen, who is eyeing his first premier televised ranking title of 2023.
“It is nice to produce a game like this, because you know you’ve got that game in you. You want to show this [type of performance] time after time, but you also need a good opponent!
“It was a battle against Mario, but the most important thing is that I won, and going through to the quarter-finals gives me an extra boost, and I feel good about it.”
Van Gerwen’s last eight opponent will be Stephen Bunting, after the Grand Slam semi-finalist followed up his demolition of Gian van Veen with a 10-8 victory over 2012 runner-up Kim Huybrechts.
Bunting averaged almost 106 and landed a trio of ton-plus finishes to dispatch Dutch star Van Veen, before rallying from 8-7 down to deny the Belgian – aided by five maximums.
However, Van Gerwen remains on a potential collision course with Luke Humphries, who saw off Radek Szaganski and Ryan Searle to maintain his bid for a third televised triumph in seven weeks.
Humphries whitewashed a shell-shocked Szaganski in just nine minutes, averaging 107 and converting all six of his attempts at double.
The newly crowned World Grand Prix and Grand Slam champion then delivered another ton-topping average against Searle, fending off a late rally from the Somerset star to triumph 10-7.
“Ryan is so underrated. He’s one of the toughest players to beat,” claimed Humphries, having raced into a 6-1 lead before sealing his progress with a 103 average.
“Ryan came back well, but I don’t panic any more. I’ve had a great couple of months, I’m relaxed and I believe in my own ability.
“These are tough days. They require a lot of energy and focus, but I’ve been able to draw on my experience from the European Tour, and I’m hoping I can go all the way again.”
Humphries will renew his rivalry with James Wade in the last eight, after the ten-time TV title winner overcame Steve Lennon and Dimitri Van den Bergh on Saturday.
Wade eased past Irish ace Lennon 6-2, before landing a brace of ton-plus finishes against Van den Bergh to secure a place in his third consecutive televised quarter-final.
Gabriel Clemens won through an extraordinary clash against 2022 World Youth Champion Josh Rock on his way to booking a quarter-final showdown against Luke Woodhouse.
Rock’s 112.27 average – the second highest in Players Championship Finals history – wasn’t enough to overcome a clinical Clemens, who averaged 101 to celebrate a brilliant 6-3 success.
The German number one then demolished a struggling Niels Zonneveld 10-1 to book his place in a second televised ranking quarter-final – his first since his Alexandra Palace exploits in January.
Woodhouse has also enjoyed a landmark weekend in Minehead, defeating former finalists Rob Cross and Dave Chisnall to advance to a maiden TV quarter-final.
Woodhouse – who also accounted for Australian icon Simon Whitlock in round one – continued his charge to move to the cusp of a place in the world’s top 32.
Elsewhere, third seed Damon Heta made it back-to-back televised quarter-finals with battling wins over Kevin Doets and Brendan Dolan to seal his place in Sunday’s last eight.
The Australian came through a scrappy affair against Doets in round two, before averaging 99 and converting 124, 125 and 128 checkouts to complete a 10-8 success against a spirited Dolan.
Heta will play Ryan Joyce for a place in the last four, after the 38-year-old saw off Joe Cullen and Jermaine Wattimena to advance to his first televised ranking quarter-final in almost five years.
Joyce punished a profligate doubling display from former Masters champion Cullen in round two, before reeling off four straight legs from 7-6 adrift to deny Wattimena later in the evening.
Earlier in the day, top seed Gerwyn Price suffered a chastening 6-1 defeat to Huybrechts in round two, while 2014 champion Gary Anderson was edged out by Van den Bergh at the same stage of the event.
2017 runner-up Jonny Clayton was swept aside by an impressive Zonneveld in Saturday afternoon's second round, while Chisnall averaged almost 110 to inflict a 6-4 defeat on Masters champion Chris Dobey.
The tournament will conclude on Sunday November 26, with the afternoon's quarter-finals followed by the semi-finals and final later in the evening.
The evening session will also see the PDC Winmau World Youth Championship final take place, as emerging Dutchman Van Veen takes on teenage sensation Luke Littler for the coveted title.
The 2023 Cazoo Players Championship Finals will be broadcast live on ITV4 in the UK, and through the PDC's worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and Viaplay.
Stephen Bunting 6-1 Gian van Veen
Ryan Searle 6-3 Ricardo Pietreczko
Mario Vandenbogaerde 6-2 Matt Campbell
Brendan Dolan 6-5 Maik Kuivenhoven
Luke Woodhouse 6-3 Rob Cross
Gabriel Clemens 6-3 Josh Rock
Ryan Joyce 6-4 Joe Cullen
Niels Zonneveld 6-2 Jonny Clayton
James Wade 6-2 Steve Lennon
Main Stage x4
Stephen Bunting 10-8 Kim Huybrechts
Michael van Gerwen 10-6 Mario Vandenbogaerde
Luke Humphries 10-7 Ryan Searle
James Wade 10-6 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Stage Two x4
Damon Heta 10-8 Brendan Dolan
Luke Woodhouse 10-8 Dave Chisnall
Gabriel Clemens 10-1 Niels Zonneveld
Ryan Joyce 10-7 Jermaine Wattimena
Sunday November 26
Afternoon Session (1245-1700 GMT)
Stephen Bunting v Michael van Gerwen
Luke Woodhouse v Gabriel Clemens
James Wade v Luke Humphries
Damon Heta v Ryan Joyce
Best of 19 legs
Evening Session (1900-2300 GMT)
Bunting/Van Gerwen v Woodhouse/Clemens
Wade/Humphries v Heta/Joyce
Best of 21 legs
PDC Winmau World Youth Championship Final
Gian van Veen v Luke Littler
Best of 11 legs