CLAYTON & HUMPHRIES COMPLETE SEMI-FINAL LINE-UP IN BLACKPOOL
Jonny Clayton and Luke Humphries won through fascinating quarter-finals on Day Seven at the Betfred World Matchplay, as the semi-final line-up was finalised on a dramatic night at the Winter Gardens.
Nathan Aspinall and Joe Cullen came through thrilling last eight ties on Thursday, and they were joined in the final four by Wales' World Cup winner Clayton and sixth seed Humphries on Friday.
Clayton produced an extraordinary display of finishing to move through to his maiden World Matchplay semi-final, landing six ton-plus checkouts in his 16-12 success against Ryan Searle.
Humphries, meanwhile, will also feature in his first semi-final at the Empress Ballroom, after defying a late fightback from Damon Heta to celebrate a remarkable 16-13 victory.
However, Clayton stole the show on a thrilling Friday night in Blackpool, fending off a spirited Searle to continue his bid to lift the coveted Phil Taylor Trophy on Sunday.
The pair made an electric start to the contest, before Clayton followed up a trademark 121 finish in leg eight with a 13-dart break - the first of the contest.
Searle responded with a 121 finish of his own to restore parity at five apiece, and the monopoly with the throw continued as the Somerset star edged into an 8-7 lead.
However, Clayton seized the initiative during a sensational seven-leg spell, winning six of those legs and converting 124, 100 and 122 combinations to establish a 13-9 cushion.
Despite his blistering start to the tie, Searle's sensational scoring began to waver in the latter stages, and Clayton maintained control to continue his ground-breaking run at the Empress Ballroom.
"What a game - that was brilliant," reflected Clayton, who has won more televised titles than the rest of the semi-finalists combined.
"It's always a great feeling to hit the big finishes, and that really helped me out tonight.
"Ryan is one of the nicest guys on tour and he's a cracking dart player. We have great respect for each other, so I'm chuffed to get over that winning line."
Clayton added: "I'm doing this for my dad. He's not well at all, so it would mean everything for me to win this title.
"It means a lot to me for a lot of different reasons. My dad's my biggest fan and he's wishing me on so I want to do this for him.
"I'm fighting until the end - it would mean everything to win; for my family, my friends and obviously my dad, hopefully it's going to be my year."
Elsewhere, Humphries survived a late scare in his victory over former World Cup winner Heta, in a contest featuring 20 breaks of throw - a World Matchplay record.
Humphries fired in back-to-back 180s on his way to a 12-dart break in leg five, and produced a show-stopping tops-tops 100 finish in leg nine, yet Heta continued to peg him back.
Following a 12-dart break from Heta in leg 12, Humphries finally established some daylight with a run of three consecutive legs, although the pattern of breaks continued throughout the fourth session.
Former UK Open runner-up Humphries appeared to have broken Heta's resistance with a punishing three-leg blitz midway through the tie, reeling off three straight legs in 14, 11 and 12 darts.
The Australian was staring down the barrel at 9-15, although he threatened to launch an astonishing comeback, following up legs of 12, 14 and 13 darts with a spectacular 152 checkout to reduce the arrears to 13-15.
Nevertheless, with Heta growing in confidence, Humphries sealed his progress in style, producing a brilliant double-double 92 finish with a brace of double 18s to keep his title hopes alive.
"Tomorrow is going to be a great spectacle. It's a huge game for me," admitted the 28-year-old, who is eyeing a place in his second televised ranking final.
"The other three players left in have won a big TV title, I haven't. They know it feels and I don't, but if I play like I know I can, I believe I can make the final.
"I enjoy that pressure on my shoulders. I enjoy the fact I've got to perform or I know it's game over, and I think I'm the underdog against Jonny tomorrow.
"Jonny is one of the best finishers in the world. My scoring has got to improve, and if I can limit the opportunities he has, it can only help my cause."
The Betfred World Matchplay semi-finals take place on Saturday night at the Winter Gardens, with Aspinall up against Cullen in the opening last four tie, before Clayton and Humphries collide.
Statistics - Quarterfinals 2
|93.22||6||13/34 ||Heta ||13:16||Luke Humphries||95.50||6||16/32|