PRICE COMPLETES CULLEN COMEBACK TO CONTINUE WORLD GRAND PRIX BID
Gerwyn Price reaffirmed his title credentials at the BoyleSports World Grand Prix with a stunning comeback victory over Joe Cullen to seal his spot in the quarter-finals in Leicester.
The second round of the double-start event concluded on another dramatic night at the Morningside Arena on Thursday, and it was 2020 champion Price who stole the show with a scintillating six-leg burst in the closing stages against Cullen.
The Welshman trailed the Masters champion 2-1 following a largely subdued display, only to suddenly burst into life, averaging 107 in each of the last two sets to storm into Friday's quarter-finals.
The world number one drew first blood in a scrappy first set, but Cullen restored parity at one apiece with a clean sweep in set two, before punishing Price's profligacy in the third to move 2-1 ahead in the match.
Price regained his focus to blitz through set four with legs of 15, 13 and 14 darts, and the deciding set followed a similar pattern.
The 2021 World Champion followed up a 104 checkout by taking out 305 in six darts, firing in a superb 171 and taking out a tops-tops 134 combination, before a clinical 88 kill capped off an inspired fightback.
"I put myself under a lot of pressure, but when my back was up against the wall I produced my best darts," reflected Price, who is bidding to reach a third successive World Grand Prix final.
"I'm nowhere near my best. I was way off the pace early on, but I produce my best stuff under pressure, which is brilliant."
Price's reward is a quarter-final showdown against Madars Razma, after the Latvian dumped out 2017 champion Daryl Gurney to reach the last eight of a TV event for the first time in his career.
Razma - who defeated Ryan Searle on his double-start debut on Tuesday - averaged 92, landed five 180s and pinned 37 percent of his attempts at a finishing double to complete one of his best big stage performances.
Gurney kicked off proceedings with a classy 110 checkout, but a sequence of six straight legs from Razma saw him establish a two-set lead with a 96 average.
Gurney arrested his slide in set three to halve the deficit, but Razma regained control with back-to-back 14-darters, and a trademark 171 with three treble 19s catapulted him to victory inside 16 darts.
"I'm in the quarter-finals - it sounds so amazing. I am living my dream, and I believe I can go further," said a buoyant Razma, who is on the cusp of breaking into the world's top 32.
"I am so happy. I am improving step by step, and I feel like I can beat everybody here. My new goal is to be in the top 32 by the World Championship."
Elsewhere, Nathan Aspinall staged a remarkable comeback from 2-0 down to edge out UK Open champion Danny Noppert, surviving four match darts to secure a spot in his second World Grand Prix quarter-final.
Aspinall appeared to be staring down the barrel of a straight-sets defeat at one stage, but the tenacious Stockport star fought back bravely to preserve his hopes of a maiden double-start crown.
Noppert snatched a hard-fought opening stanza after Aspinall frittered away five set darts, and his frustration was compounded when the Dutchman doubled his advantage in a second set decider.
Aspinall closed out a scrappy third set to keep his hopes alive, and he then produced his best spell of the match to force a fifth and final set, taking out 104 and 100 finishes to maintain his revival.
Noppert looked to have stemmed the tide after storming 2-0 ahead in set five, but after squandering four match darts in leg three, his game unravelled in an action-packed conclusion.
The Dutchman took 13 darts to pin a starting double in an incredible final leg, and Aspinall took full advantage to hit tops and reach his second TV quarter-final of 2022.
"What a fantastic comeback. I'm absolutely buzzing," declared Aspinall, who defeated fourth seed Michael Smith in round one.
"I'm a fighter. I enjoy these battles. That is what I'm about, and I'm very happy with that win."
The two-time TV title winner will now play Martin Lukeman, who denied Ross Smith in another dramatic sudden-death leg to continue his dream debut in Leicester.
Smith crashed in ten 180s and forced a last-leg shoot-out after an extraordinary miscount from Lukeman in the penultimate leg, but the debutant recovered to secure a landmark win.
Smith converted 72 and 67 finishes in consecutive legs to snatch the opening set, but he was left to rue squandering four darts at double for a 2-0 cushion as Lukeman levelled.
The 37-year-old reeled off five consecutive legs to move 2-1 ahead but Smith responded strongly, following up a sensational 174 set-up shot by pinning double eight to preserve his hopes.
Smith appeared to have gifted Lukeman victory after squandering eight darts to force a decider, but a bizarre miscount from Lukeman on 45 prolonged the drama, only for the Watford thrower to sink tops to seal the deal.
"It's the biggest payday of my career. I've put so much work in, and I'm so proud of myself," claimed Lukeman, who will feature in his first televised quarter-final on Friday.
"I'm in the quarter-finals of a major. It's crazy. I'm just going to take it game by game. I know I can beat anyone on my day and I'm riding a wave at the moment."
Friday's quarter-finals will feature a clash between five-time winner Michael van Gerwen and 2019 semi-finalist Chris Dobey, while 2018 runner-up Peter Wright takes on former World Matchplay champion Dimitri Van den Bergh.
Price's chase for a second World Grand Prix crown continues against Razma, while Aspinall will play Lukeman in Friday's curtain-raiser.
Price is the 9/4 title favourite with sponsors BoyleSports going into the quarter-finals, with five-time winner Van Gerwen at 11/4 ahead of Wright (4/1) and Van den Bergh (5/1) as the hunt for the title continues.
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