MICHAEL VAN GERWEN and Simon Whitlock will meet in the BetVictor World Matchplay semi-finals, after they enjoyed thrilling quarter-final victories over Dave Chisnall and James Wade at the Winter Gardens on Thursday.
World Champion van Gerwen, the pre-tournament favourite with sponsors BetVictor, came through a see-saw battle with number nine seed Dave Chisnall 16-12 as he moved through to the last four in Blackpool for a second successive year.
It means that all three St Helens darters are now out of the tournament - but all can hold their heads high after some top arrows in Blackpool.
The Dutch star trailed 3-0 early on as Chisnall made a superb start, only for the world number one to hit back to level - despite Chisnall hitting seven perfect darts in the game's fifth leg.
Van Gerwen then moved ahead for the first time at 5-4, and though Chisnall broke back to level, he then finished double 16 before taking out 130 to defy two 180s from the Englishman in leg 12 as he took a 7-5 cushion.
The next four legs were shared to leave van gerwen 9-7 up, before Chisnall stole the next on double four before levelling with a stunning 11-darter - hitting two 180s to van Gerwen's one and then taking out 96.
A further four maximums were hit in the next two legs as the pair again traded 180s, and a later 81 finish from Chisnall was cancelled out by a 126 bull checkout from van Gerwen as he levelled at 11-all.
The duo were then matched with double top finishes to remain locked at 12 legs apiece, but van Gerwen struck the game's key blow in the 25th leg with a brilliant 129 bullseye finish to break and move 13-12 up.
He then hit tops to create some breathing space and took out legs of 14 and 13 darts to complete a superb victory.
"It was an amazing game and I'm proud of my performance," said van Gerwen. "Dave tested me but I produced some great darts at the right moments, especially the 129 finish to go 13-12 up.
"Dave was fantastic and he put me under pressure at the start but I came back very strongly and I thought I dominated the game and was the better player after that.
"I knew I had an extra gear, but fair play to Dave because he played some great darts. He never gives anything away and that makes it even sweeter to win this game.
"I've never won this tournament before and that's my aim this week, but this win means a lot to me and I've got to focus on the semi-final now."
Chisnall was also defeated by van Gerwen in last year's quarter-finals in Blackpool, and admitted: "The last session killed me off and I have to work on the longer format because I ran out of steam.
"I could have been 5-0 up at the start but Michael's the world number one and I knew I'd have to dig in. He hit a lot of bull finishes and was great on that tonight.
"I enjoyed it, though, and it's more experience for me on the big stage. It's been a good tournament for me and I've battled hard."