Ryan Searle continued his blistering form to clinch a first title of 2024 on Monday, denying an inspired Gary Anderson to celebrate Players Championship Three success in Leicester.

Having finished as runner-up in the year’s opening two Players Championship events last week, Searle edged out Anderson in a mesmerising contest to scoop the £15,000 top prize.

Searle had succumbed to Scottish legend Anderson in the Players Championship Two decider last Tuesday, but he avenged that defeat with a sensational display at the Mattioli Arena.

The Somerset star raced into an early 3-0 lead before Anderson opened his account with a spectacular 164 checkout, although Searle restored his three-leg buffer with an eye-catching double 19-double 19 finish.

Anderson reduced the arrears with his second 12-darter of proceedings in leg six, although Searle was undeterred, responding with consecutive holds to retain the initiative at 6-3.

The Scottish veteran threatened to complete an astonishing comeback after reeling off the next three legs without reply, featuring a superb 11-dart break of throw in leg 11.

However, Searle defied a 177 set-up shot from Anderson to move to the cusp of victory at 7-6, before piling in a brace of maximums in a last-leg shoot-out to seal the deal inside 14 darts.

“I wasn’t at my best today, but when it came to the final, I feel like I played pretty well,” reflected Searle, who averaged 107.63 to prevail in a thrilling title decider.

“I believe that Gary is probably the best player in the world, and I’ve said that for a long time. When you’re practising against him he’s banging in 180 after 180 and taking out massive finishes.

“Me and Gary have only practiced twice together this year. He is playing phenomenal darts at the moment, so I’m happy to be able to get one over on him for once!"

He added: “To make three finals in a row and win one of them is a big achievement, because these events are not easy.

“I don’t set myself targets. I just turn up and play and whatever happens, happens.

"I wish I had Luke Humphries’ focus, where he wanted to be in the Premier League, he wanted to be world number one. I think that would probably help me, but it’s just not me!”

Searle began his campaign with wins over Patrick Geeraets and Owen Bates, and he continued his serene progress by dumping out Australia’s World Cup pairing of Simon Whitlock and Damon Heta.

The 36-year-old then saw off Danny Noppert in the quarter-finals – aided by a 164 finish in the penultimate leg – before winning five straight legs from 4-2 down to topple Michael van Gerwen in the semi-finals.

Searle then denied Anderson in the Scot's quest for back-to-back Players Championship titles, despite the two-time World Champion registering ton-plus averages in six of his seven matches.

The 53-year-old boasted an extraordinary tournament average of 105.85 and crashed in 41 180s throughout the day – obliterating Dave Chisnall’s previous Players Championship record of 35.

Anderson averaged 112 in his opening round demolition of Jeffrey de Graaf, before almost usurping that in his semi-final success against Callan Rydz, producing winning legs of 13, 12, 13, 13, 12, 12 and 11 darts.

Rydz posted a quartet of ton-plus averages during an impressive campaign, defeating the young trio of Nathan Rafferty, Mike De Decker and Josh Rock to book his place in the last 16.

The former World Championship quarter-finalist also fought back from 5-0 down to stun Daryl Gurney in an 11-leg thriller, and he averaged 103 to account for Players Championship One winner Luke Littler in the quarter-finals.

World number two Van Gerwen, meanwhile, advanced to the last four in his first Players Championship appearance of 2024, overcoming 2023 World Champion Michael Smith and edging out Steve Lennon in the closing stages.

Littler, Noppert and Lennon were joined in the last eight by two-time World Champion Peter Wright, who displayed promising signs in his thumping last 16 win over teenage talent Leighton Bennett, averaging 104 in the process.

Elsewhere in Leicester, Ryan Meikle produced the fourth nine-darter on the Players Championship circuit in 2024, achieving perfection during his first round victory against Geert Nentjes.