The Ladbrokes World Darts semi-final on Sunday between Phil Taylor and Raymond Van Barneveld appeared to be turning into a damp squib as Taylor cruised to a 5-1 lead.
‘The Power’ took the first two sets for the loss of just one leg, and although Van Barneveld won the third set 3-0, Taylor bounced back and finishes of 141 and 111 put him 3-1 ahead.
That soon became 5-1 but Taylor then missed two darts at double 20 to win the contest 6-1 and that gave Van Barneveld a route back into the match.
The Dutchman responded by taking the next three sets to bring the scores back to 5-4 as Taylor’s aim deserted him.
At one point, Taylor appeared to be complaining about being distracted by a draught, but a 180 in the 10th set helped him take a 2-1 lead and settle any nerves.
And needing 68 to finish in the fourth leg, and wrap up the victory, Taylor took advantage of a missed dart by Van Barneveld to end the contest with a double 16.
The pair appeared to exchange angry words on stage after shaking hands at the end of the match, but Taylor was keen to play down the incident.
“Nothing went on,” he said on Sky Sports 1. “None of us wanted to lose that. He was brilliant there. He stuck in there.
“I said to Raymond backstage, ‘there’s nobody in this room who’s a bigger fan of you than I am’. We’re not going to fall out about anything. It’s forgotten. It’s done.”
Taylor admitted all had not gone exactly to plan, saying: “The crowd seemed to get behind him a bit. I think the crowd wanted another Michael van Gerwen-James Wade match.
“I’m full of cold. I’ve got a temperature. I’m shattered. I’m taking energy sweets. I should have gone to the doctors to get some antibiotics. I’m trying anything to keep my energy up.
“I’ve got a day off tomorrow (Monday). I’m going to lie in bed most of the day. I’m shattered.”
After his day off, he will return to the Alexandra Palace on New Year’s Day to take on a player he describes as “phenomenal”.
“Michael is extraordinary,” he added. “I’ve never seen a dart player like him in my career. Even when I’m at my best... he’s probably better than I am at my best. He’s phenomenal.”
Michael van Gerwen will face 15-time champion Taylor in the final on Tuesday after going agonisingly close to historic back-to-back nine-dart finishes in his semi-final win over James Wade.
Van Gerwen was leading three sets to one but trailing 2-0 in the fifth set when he produced a perfect leg, matching the achievement of Dean Winstanley earlier in the tournament.
The Dutchman hit a maximum 180, 177 and then finished 144 on double 12 to send the Alexandra Palace crowd wild.
And the fans were still on their feet moments later when the speedy right-hander hit two more maximums to start the next leg and narrowly missed double 12 for a checkout on 141.
Remarkably, Van Gerwen did not even win the set, with Englishman Wade holding his nerve to win the fifth leg and reduce his deficit but the Dutchman prevailed in the end to take a 6-4 win,
“It was unbelievable,” Van Gerwen said. “It was a very difficult game for me because Wade is a very slow player and I had not beaten him on TV, but it was a nice one to win.”