Rob Cross stuns Daryl Gurney to set up final against Michael Smith at World Matchplay
By Josh Gorton
Last Updated: 28/07/19 7:01am
Rob Cross produced the greatest comeback in World Matchplay history to stun Daryl Gurney and set up a showdown with Michael Smith in Sunday's final, after 'Bully Boy' ended Glen Durrant's debut run in Blackpool.
In a tournament that had already produced a multitude of thrills and spills, we were served up more astonishing drama on semi-final Saturday at the Winter Gardens, as Cross fought back from the brink to shock third seed Gurney.
The reigning Players Champion appeared to be closing in on his third major televised final but 'Voltage' displayed remarkable brinkmanship to reach his third major final of 2019 - having finished runner-up in the UK Open and Premier League earlier this year.
The 2018 world champion will be hoping it's a case of third time lucky when he takes on fifth seed Smith in Sunday's showpiece, as the World Championship finalist produced a classy display to defeat three-time Lakeside champion Durrant in convincing fashion.
Durrant enjoyed a fairytale Blackpool bow, defeating the decorated trio of Adrian Lewis, Michael van Gerwen and James Wade to reach a first PDC major semi-final, but his hopes of Matchplay glory were thwarted by an imperious 'Bully Boy'.
Smith is still eyeing his first major TV title but having already featured in a Premier League and World Championship final, the 28-year-old won't be fazed by the prospect of facing his World Cup partner in Sunday's finale.
Rob Cross 17-15 Daryl Gurney
Cross completed the greatest comeback in World Matchplay history as he reeled off eight consecutive legs from 15-9 down to stun Gurney in one of the most remarkable games ever seen at the Winter Gardens.
'Voltage' was the epitome of consistency in his opening three matches but he struggled for large periods against the Northern Irishman, who spurned 38 darts at double as he surrendered a commanding cushion in the most dramatic of circumstances.
Cross landed three consecutive ton-plus checkouts in a topsy-turvy opening session which featured just one hold of throw.
Gurney drew first blood with a 15-dart break, before Cross converted 110, 100 and 104 finishes in succession, only for the third seed to break back via double 16 after 'Voltage' had spurned two darts for a 4-1 lead.
However, Cross' fabulous finishing masked what had been a lacklustre scoring display and Gurney claimed the second session 4-1 to establish a 6-4 cushion.
The Northern Irishman, who landed six maximums in the opening 10 legs - produced an effortless 114 checkout to level in leg eight, before following up a break of throw with a crucial last dart in hand double 16, after Cross had missed the bull for a show-stopping 170.
Gurney - who had trailed 4-3, extended his winning sequence to seven straight legs as Cross' doubling also began to unravel, converting a crushing 124 on the bull in leg 13 to pile on the pain for the 2018 world champion.
The two-time major winner extended his lead to 13-6 before squandering three darts at tops for a 14-6 cushion, as Cross reduced the deficit to 13-7.
It appeared no more than a consolation at that stage, but it sparked one of the most improbable comebacks in Matchplay history.
The next four legs were shared as Cross fired in 14 and 13-dart legs to edge closer towards double figures and a classy 82 combination on double eight saw him cut the deficit to 15-10.
The Northern Irishman was beginning to display fragility in the finishing department and he spurned four more darts for a 16-10 advantage.
Cross exploited this error and followed it up with a majestic 10-dart hold, before defying a 13th maximum from Gurney to produce a nerveless 88 finish on double seven.
The Winter Gardens crowd were sensing a historic fightback and Cross delivered, closing out a convincing hold which was followed by a clutch 66 outshot to remarkably restore parity at 15-15.
The world No 2 regained the lead for the first time since leg seven after Gurney missed the bull for a 12-dart break and after Super Chin wasted three darts at double 12 to save his skin in the following leg, Cross composed to sink double 16 and complete the comeback.
Michael Smith 17-10 Glen Durrant
Smith sealed a spot in his fourth major televised final after producing a superb performance to end Durrant's incredible debut run.
The three-time Lakeside world champion was bidding to become the first debutant to lift the Matchplay title since Larry Butler in the tournament's inaugural staging in 1994, but Smith averaged 100.77, landed nine maximums and converted 50 per cent of his attempts at double to cap off a complete display.
Smith made a blistering start to the contest, averaging 106 as he stormed to into a 4-1 advantage, with Durrant's solitary leg coming courtesy of a 116 checkout in leg two.
'Bully Boy' maintained his electrifying form after the break, following up a delightful 11-darter with a 111 checkout to stretch his lead to 6-1.
Durrant stopped the rot with a 13-darter but the St Helen's ace was undeterred, converting crucial 76 and 97 combinations to establish an 8-2 buffer with an average in excess of 108.
'Duzza' improved significantly following his tepid start and he finally got his reward in leg 15, breaking Smith's throw for the first time to reduce the arrears to 10-5, after the St Helen's star went low on tops - just his second missed dart at double at that stage.
Normal service was resumed for Smith after the interval, as he restored his six-leg cushion with a brilliant 126 checkout, although Durrant rallied to win three of the next four legs - two-dart 100 and 70 checkouts saw him close the gap to 12-8.
Nevertheless, the former World Youth champion reeled off three straight legs after the break, featuring consecutive 13-dart holds to all but end Durrant's faint hopes of a revival.
The Teessider continued to battle valiantly and registered an 11-darter and sank double eight to move into double digits, but Smith displayed no finishing line fever and sealed the deal in style, wrapping up a 17-10 win with an effortless 11-dart hold.
Follow every dart from the World Matchplay final on Sunday night in Blackpool, as Rob Cross takes on Michael Smith. Coverage begins live on Sky Sports Action from 7pm.