McCoy's Premier League Darts: Season reaching its climax
Premier League play-off places are up for grabs when the penultimate round of the season takes place on Thursday.
Last Updated: 02/05/13 8:39pm
With Adrian Lewis now out of the running for a top-four finish, seven of the eight players head to Liverpool knowing that finals night in a fortnight is still within reach.
Andy Hamilton and Simon Whitlock, though, must leave the Echo Arena unbeaten if they are to keep their challenges for spots at The O2 running into next Thursday's final league night.
Robert Thornton, meanwhile, can keep alive his hopes of marking his debut season with a semi-final place should he complete a league double over reigning champion Phil Taylor.
Such a result would also create history, with no other player in the previous eight years of the Premier League having defeated Taylor twice in a league season - and Thornton, who won 7-4 when the pair met in Brighton last month, admits that the six-time champion will be out for revenge.
"He'll be out for my blood!" said Thornton. "I'm just going to go up on stage and do my best and enjoy myself, and whatever happens will happen.
"You've got to thrive playing against the best players and I've done that for most of this season. If you don't play at your best then they'll run riot against you."
Despite sitting fifth after 12 weeks, reigning UK Open champion Thornton could still cap his fine debut season by winning a play-off place, with Thursday's clash against Taylor to be followed in Newcastle next week by games against Raymond van Barneveld and Michael van Gerwen.
"It's going to be tough," he admitted. "I've got Phil this week and then Raymond van Barneveld and Michael van Gerwen in the last week, so it's going to be interesting.
"I had to do it like this when I won the UK Open. You've got to come up against the best to get through but I'll be the underdog in the next couple of weeks and I'll enjoy it."
Taylor can secure his own place with a 7-0 or 7-1 win over Thornton in Liverpool, having turned his faltering season around with three wins and a draw over the past fortnight.
"It's been a great couple of weeks for me and it would be fantastic if I can qualify for the Play-Offs in Liverpool," said Taylor. "The Premier League's a marathon and it's important to peak at the right time.
"My results have improved and so have my performances. I know I'll need to play well against Robert because he's having a great season and he was superb when we last played in Brighton."
League leader Michael van Gerwen needs only a point from his game with Andy Hamilton in the night's opening fixture to ensure his place in the Play-Offs.
Van Gerwen had suffered only his third defeat of the season last Thursday, when he went down 7-5 to Whitlock, but bounced back to win a fifth UK Open Qualifier out of eight events on Sunday.
"Winning on Sunday was good preparation for me because I've got a couple of tough weeks ahead in the Premier League," said the Dutchman.
"Last week was disappointing for me and I don't like losing, but it's part of the game and you can't win for 14 weeks in a row. I missed too many doubles but it's a new game this week and I've got to make sure I win against Andy."
Hamilton, meanwhile, has to win both of his games - against van Gerwen and Wade - and hope that Thornton fails to defeat Taylor if he is to keep alive his feint hopes of a Play-Off place going into the final league night.
The Stoke ace has lost his last four games, and admitted: "I've not performed for the last couple of weeks and I deserved what I've got, but I'm going to keep fighting.
"It's going to be hard to turn it around but games against Michael and James will bring the best out of me - they've got to!
"Having been in the semi-finals last year, the chance to be there again is driving me on but I know it's going to be even harder to get there now. Last year the table was a lot closer and this year the top four or five have pulled away from the bottom three."
2009 champion Wade could also seal a Play-Off place should he win both of his games on Thursday as he faces Whitlock and Hamilton, with van Barneveld looking to follow up his brilliant win over the left-hander last week with another victory against Lewis.