Michael van Gerwen celebrated a record-breaking third consecutive nightly win in the Cazoo Premier League on Thursday, courtesy of a 6-4 success against World Champion Michael Smith on Night Six in Liverpool.
Van Gerwen travelled to the M&S Bank Arena having claimed back-to-back victories in Dublin and Exeter, and he continued his dominance to become the first player to win three successive nights since the Premier League's nightly knockout format was introduced.
The Dutchman kicked off his Night Six campaign with a resounding 6-2 victory against Jonny Clayton, before dispatching Peter Wright 6-1 to set up a showdown against Smith.
The pair kicked off proceedings with 15-dart holds before Van Gerwen struck the first blow, punishing three missed darts at doubles from the St Helens star to break in leg three.
Van Gerwen extended his lead with a 14-darter, but Smith came roaring back, converting a clinical 111 combination to reduce the arrears, which he followed with back-to-back 180s in leg six.
Smith was unable to produce another moment of nine-dart magic against the Dutchman, but after levelling the tie with a 12-darter, he continued his blistering burst with an 11-dart hold in leg seven.
However, Van Gerwen was undeterred, restoring his lead with a 14-dart break in leg nine, before wrapping up victory on double ten, after Smith had wired a dart at the bull to force a decider.
“You have to turn up in a final against a player like Michael Smith, and I’m glad I did,” said Van Gerwen, who has won his last nine Premier League matches and is now eight points clear at the top of the league table.
“When you are under pressure, it’s the best feeling in the world to produce good darts. It gives you joy and it gives you confidence.
“I know how to win without playing my A-game, but I think in patches tonight against Michael Smith, I did play really well.
“I am not where I want to be yet, but I am winning games and when you see the table, I can’t really complain!”
Smith was struggling with illness ahead of Thursday’s action, but the world number one claimed battling wins over Dimitri Van den Bergh and Nathan Aspinall to claim a precious three points on Merseyside to strengthen his standing in second place in the league table.
The world number one produced 110 and 122 finishes in his 6-3 win over Van den Bergh, before crashing in five 180s to dispatch a profligate Aspinall and ease through to the evening’s showpiece.
In the quarter-finals, Aspinall produced a flawless display to inflict a fifth consecutive defeat on Night One winner Chris Dobey, converting all six of his attempts at double in a 6-4 success.
Dobey succumbed with a ton-plus average for the second straight week, as Aspinall converted 112, 143 and 100 combinations to maintain his position in the top four.
Meanwhile, in the evening’s curtain-raiser, Wright opened his Premier League account in 2023 with a dramatic 6-5 success against Gerwyn Price, despite missing eight match darts in a dramatic finale.
Wright raced into a 5-2 lead before Price responded to restore parity at five apiece, although the Welshman was unable to complete the comeback – spurning three match darts of his own in the decider.