Rob Cross was eliminated from the Unibet Premier League after a 7-4 defeat to Glen Durrant on Judgement Night in Milton Keynes as Glen Durrant maintained his lead at the top of the table.
2019 Premier League finalist Cross has endured a torrid time season, having won just one of his nine games, and a 7-4 reverse to Durrant was a third successive loss following the restart of action at the Marshall Arena.
He entered the night bottom of the table, and knew his fate was out of his own hands if Daryl Gurney earned a point or more against Peter Wright.
Fortunately for Cross, Gurney suffered a 7-4 defeat to the reigning World Champion to give the Hastings ace hope going into the final game of the night.
Cross produced arguably his performance of the season as he averaged over 103, but this came against the immovable force of table-topper Durrant who hit him back with some incredible darts.
Things got off to an awful start for Cross as Durrant fired a stunning 167 checkout on his way to establishing a 5-0 lead.
It was here that Cross finally started to find his rhythm, but needed to win all seven legs without response to keep his Premier League hopes alive.
Checkouts of 124, 81 and 90 gave him an unlikely lifeline, but Durrant chiselled away and found the required leg to seal Cross’ fate, before clinching a big win two legs later to move himself two points clear at the top of the table.
"Rob's a World Champion and he acted like a champion tonight," admitted Durrant. "I like Rob but I had to focus on myself and I'm really happy with the win.
"My belief is really coming through at the moment and I'm playing really well. It was a big thing for me to change my flights and it's working well - I'm scoring well and finishing great.
"I've practised hard during the pandemic and I'm feeling relaxed on stage. The three days have gone perfect for me and it's an exciting time.
"It's down to the nitty gritty now and I'd love to finish in the top four - I'm not thinking of winning this tournament at the moment. It would be an amazing night to be in the Play-Offs."
World Champion Wright has looked superb since the return to action, and pushed himself up to second in the table as he backed up his Night Eight win over Jeffrey de Zwaan with some more brilliant darts to beat Gurney.
It was another tense opening to the game as the pair shared the opening eight legs, with Gurney working hard to complete his Milton Keynes survival miracle.
However, Wright - who missed double 12 for a nine-dart finish - proved too strong with his finishing and doubling, breaking in the tenth leg before sealing victory in the 11th to further boost his Play-Off credentials.
"I felt really weird and I think I played rubbish tonight - I didn't settle but I got away with the win," said Wright. "Daryl wasn't at his best but he had a lot of pressure on him tonight.
"There's a long way to go still. It's a nice position to be in but there are seven games left."
He added: "The nine-darter would have been amazing but the dart at double 12 was awful - I was shaking! I'll have to go and practice double 12!"
Gurney had been left with an anxious wait before Cross' loss ensured his survival, although the Northern Irish ace had saved his season with wins over Chris Dobey and Nathan Aspinall on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"I'm very lucky," said Gurney, a semi-finalist last year. "I put myself under so much pressure tonight and I didn't perform, but thankfully I got four points on the other two nights.
"I struggled against Peter and I'm disappointed with how I played, but thank God for Glen Durrant!. Glen and Rob's game was fantastic and Rob never gave up.
"I thought that if I could come here this and win five or six points I could give myself an opportunity, and I won two games. I had thrown my darts in the bin so I've had to get them back now!"
Gerwyn Price needed just one leg to ensure his safety going into Judgement Night, and secured his survival in style with a 7-0 thumping of Challenger Jermaine Wattimena.
The Welshman took just 11 minutes in his convincing demolition job, sealing things with some sensational ton-plus checkouts of 164 and 114 - following up his 7-1 defeat of Gary Anderson with a whitewash of the Dutchman.
"I never thought I'd go out today and it was going to be very unlucky for me not to go through, but after I won a leg I knew I was safe," said Price. "I played a bit better today and I'm happy to win again.
"Jermaine was scoring okay in patches but was nowhere near his best, and I punished him. I felt good but it's always easy when you're scoring well and someone's two or three darts behind.
"I took my chances and that's all that matters. I've got a chance now to get into the top four and hopefully it keeps going in the right direction."
Anderson heaped more misery on Michael van Gerwen as he ensured it was back-to-back defeats for the reigning champion with a brilliant 7-4 victory.
Two-time champion Anderson bounced back from his loss to Price in style to keep himself in Play-Off contention.
Van Gerwen started the brighter of the two, but couldn’t shake off Anderson who stuck with him during the opening six legs.
The Scotsman kicked on and crept his average to the 100 mark with some big power scoring and sharp finishing to put the pressure on Van Gerwen before closing out a 7-4 victory.
The defeat capped a disappointing two days for Van Gerwen, who has now dropped to fourth in the table following this defeat and his 7-3 loss to Durrant on Night Eight.
"There were some good parts and I'm happy to take the two points because the table is so tight this year," said Anderson.
"Michael wasn't at his best tonight and didn't score like he can. I'm practising well but it's still not as good as I want it to be when I get up on stage and I was a bit scratchy."
Nathan Aspinall was the benefactor from double trouble for Michael Smith as he recovered from 5-3 down to win 7-5 in the opening game of the night.
Having moved 6-5 ahead and guaranteed a point, Aspinall watched on as Smith spurned eight chances to clinch a point, allowing the former UK Open champion to eventually take out 16 to clinch a valuable win.
"Maybe a draw would have been a fair result, but I'm happy to get the win and I'll take it," said Aspinall. "I feel like I've nicked a point from him but I've been in that position many times.
"It's probably the game I've enjoyed most during the Premier League this season. It was a brilliant game to be involved in - we bring the best out of each other and it was another great game. He threw everything at me but I dug deep.
"I felt for him at the end when he missed those doubles, but it shows that with or without a crowd, you still feel the pressure. I'm loving it though and I'll take confidence from tonight."
The remaining eight players will now compete in a further seven league nights from August 28-September 5 to battle for the four spots in October's Play-Offs.
Friday's Night Ten will see table-topper Durrant meet resurgent Price, before Scottish World Cup pair Wright and Anderson face off.
Reigning Premier League champion Van Gerwen then faces Aspinall, and Smith takes on Gurney.
The action will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK, on PDCTV for Rest of the World Subscribers and through the PDC's worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and RTL7.
Unibet Premier League
Thursday August 27
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
Nathan Aspinall 7-5 Michael Smith
Michael van Gerwen 4-7 Gary Anderson
Jermaine Wattimena 0-7 Gerwyn Price
Peter Wright 7-4 Daryl Gurney
Glen Durrant 7-4 Rob Cross