WILLIAMS STUNS VAN GERWEN TO REACH WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP SEMIS
Scott Williams stunned Michael van Gerwen on a memorable day at the Paddy Power World Darts Championship, as Luke Humphries, Luke Littler and Rob Cross also progressed to the semi-finals on Monday.
The opening day of darting action in 2024 saw four enthralling quarter-finals take place at London's Alexandra Palace, as Van Gerwen's quest for a fourth World Championship crown was thwarted by Williams.
The 33-year-old caused a seismic shock with a 5-3 victory, punishing 27 missed darts at double from the Dutch supremo to blow this year's World Championship wide open.
The exuberant Englishman punished a lacklustre start from Van Gerwen to win the opening stanza in three straight legs, only for Van Gerwen to level with back-to-back 11-darters.
Van Gerwen edged back ahead in a scrappy conclusion to set three, but this only provided a temporary reprieve, as Williams won the next six legs without reply to regain the initiative.
The Dutchman arrested his slump in set six to square the contest, but Williams refused to relent, winning six of the next eight legs to dump out the three-time World Champion.
"Words can't describe it," admitted Williams, who averaged 96 and crashed in 12 maximums to celebrate the biggest win of his fledgling career.
"Michael is the best player of our generation, so to have beaten him on this stage is just crazy.
"That wasn't the Michael van Gerwen we've seen over the last three games. I could tell that he was just that little bit off tonight.
"As soon as the crowd got involved, that's when I started playing my darts later on in the game, and I'm so happy to be through to tomorrow. I'm going to enjoy it regardless."
Williams' reward is a semi-final showdown against world number three Humphries, who powered in a 103.50 average to dismantle 2021 semi-finalist Dave Chisnall 5-1.
Humphries fought back from the brink to defeat both Ricardo Pietreczko and Joe Cullen in reaching the last eight, but he brushed aside Chisnall to preserve his hopes of lifting the Sid Waddell Trophy.
The pair traded the opening two sets, but Humphries soon established control, landing 12 maximums and three ton-plus finishes - including set-winning 121 and 117 combinations - to cap off a sumptuous display.
"I've been a three-time quarter-finalist [at this event], so I really wanted to make the next step tonight," admitted Humphries, who would become the new world number one with victory over Williams.
"It was important for my confidence to put in a big performance tonight, and playing like that gives me the belief that I can go all the way now.
"The draw has been blown wide open, and it's a massive opportunity for all four of us now. It's exciting!
"If I can play like I did tonight, then I stand a great chance of becoming World Champion."
Earlier in the day, 16-year-old sensation Littler continued his ground-breaking run with a 5-1 demolition of Brendan Dolan, posting his third ton-plus average of the tournament to progress to the semi-finals.
The World Youth Champion recovered from 2-0 down in the opening set to draw first blood, before registering legs of 11, 12 and 14 darts to double his lead with a second set average of 121.
Littler continued the procession to stretch his lead to 4-0, and although Dolan landed a 118 checkout to open his account, Littler responded with a stunning 140 checkout on his way to a clean sweep in set six.
"It's unbelievable. I never thought I would have made the semi-finals on debut," conceded Littler, who averaged 101.93 and landed a trio of ton-plus finishes to triumph.
"Brendan played really well to beat Gezzy [Gerwyn Price] and Gary [Anderson], but he was just another opponent in my way, and I managed to brush him aside!
"Now I really am dreaming. I'm two games away now, so I'm definitely thinking about lifting that title.
"I think it's going to take something special to stop me based on my performances so far, but it depends what Rob Cross and Luke Littler turns up tomorrow."
Meanwhile, Cross produced a miraculous comeback from 4-0 down to deny Chris Dobey and become the first player in World Championship history to overturn a four-set deficit in the quarter-finals.
The 2018 champion found himself staring down the barrel following a blistering start from Dobey, who produced a sensational 161 checkout midway through set four.
Cross won six of the next eight legs to begin the comeback, and after surviving a match dart in a thrilling conclusion to set seven, he levelled the tie before kicking off the decisive set with 117 and 130 checkouts.
A dramatic finale saw the deciding set go to a tie-break, and after Dobey missed 71 to level in the eighth leg, Cross took out 70 to keep his hopes of lifting a second World Championship title alive.
"I really can't put it into words," admitted Cross, who averaged 100.70 and defied 17 maximums from Dobey to prevail.
"Realistically, at 4-0 down I thought it was over, which is unusual for me. Chris settled much better than me in the early stages; he's an unbelievable player.
"I'm never beaten, whoever I play in the world. I never go away. As I got closer to Chris I thought 'this is on' because I knew my best was still to come in the match.
"I will have to improve and settle quicker to win the tournament, but I believe I can win it."
Cross and Littler will collide in Tuesday's opening semi-final, before Humphries takes on Williams for a place in Wednesday's showpiece.
Statistics - Quarterfinals, Afternoon
Statistics - Quarterfinals, Evening