GRAND Slam of Darts champion Michael Smith moved to within a win of his third World Championship final in five years with a hard-fought 5-3 defeat of Windle's Stephen Bunting in the all-St Helens clash.

The St Helens ace now plays Gabriel Clemens in tonight's Cazoo World Darts Championship semi-finals at Alexandra Palace after the German number one demolished Gerwyn Price in the quarter finals. 

Smith, last year's runner up, who came through a seventh-set decider against Martin Schindler in the last 16, looked to be cruising into the final four as he raced into a 4-1 lead against his profligate St Helens rival.

However, 2021 semi-finalist Bunting came roaring back, winning six of the next seven legs to reduce the arrears to 4-3 and threaten an extraordinary fightback.

Nevertheless, the eighth set saw Bunting spurn a string of darts at doubles and Smith capitalised, holding his nerve on double ten to advance to the last four for the second straight year.

"I wasn't at my best up there today," admitted Smith, who will become the new world number one if he scoops the £500,000 top prize on January 3.

"I managed to dig deep when I needed it and when I was under pressure I managed to hit doubles.

"For most of the tournament I've been winning ugly, but I'm into the semi-finals.

"I put myself under too much pressure. Today felt weird on stage, but I when I needed to produce something I found it."

St Helens Star:

Clemens continued his history-making run at the Cazoo World Darts Championship with a sensational 5-1 demolition of world number one Price to reach the semi-finals at Alexandra Palace on Sunday.

Clemens had already made history by becoming the first German player to reach the quarter-finals of the sport’s biggest event, and he created further headlines on New Year's Day with a rout of the 2021 champion.

It was an unforgettable clash between Clemens and top seed Price which created a global talking-point after the Welshman sported noise-cancelling ear defenders during the fifth set.

Price had made a blistering start to the contest, taking out 140 and 110 checkouts in consecutive legs to draw first blood with a 107 average in winning the opening set without Clemens having a dart at a double.

However, the German number one responded magnificently, posting ton-plus averages to win each of the next two sets, and then converting a stunning 136 finish en route to a 3-1 lead.

Clemens then fired in a superb 11-darter to wrap up set five, before completing a clean sweep in set six to break new ground at Alexandra Palace.

Cheered on by a significant German contingent at Alexandra Palace, Clemens rose to the occasion, averaging 99.94 and landing eight 180s to take full advantage of a below-par display from Price.

“I think this will be amazing for darts in Germany,” said Clemens, who continues to pull in record viewing figures on German TV station Sport1, in addition to the coverage through DAZN in his home country.

“This was the biggest match of my life and it’s my best performance on the stage. I’m so happy."

He added: “Michael Smith is the Grand Slam champion, one of the favourites for the tournament and one of the best players in the world, but I will have my chances.

“I think it will be a good game. I am only focusing on the semi-finals, and I think I can beat every player.”

Elsewhere, three-time World Champion Van Gerwen stormed through to the semi-finals with a straight-sets demolition of Chris Dobey in a quick-fire tussle.

The semi-finals will take place on a blockbuster Monday night, with German trailblazer Clemens up against fourth seed Smith for a place in Tuesday’s showpiece.

Van Gerwen will then continue his bid for a fourth World Championship crown against Van den Bergh, who is aiming to become the first Belgian player to lift the coveted Sid Waddell Trophy.


Dimitri Van den Bergh 5-3 Jonny Clayton (0-3, 3-0, 1-3, 3-0, 2-3, 3-2, 3-1, 3-2).

Michael Smith 5-3 Stephen Bunting (3-2, 0-3, 3-1, 3-1, 3-0, 0-3, 1-3, 3-1).

Gabriel Clemens 5-1 Gerwyn Price (0-3, 3-1, 3-1, 3-1, 3-1, 3-0).

Michael van Gerwen 5-0 Chris Dobey (3-1, 3-1, 3-0, 3-0, 3-1).

Monday, January 2 (7.30PM) Semi-Finals.

Gabriel Clemens v Michael Smith.

Dimitri Van den Bergh v Michael van Gerwen.

Best of 11 sets.

Tuesday January 3 (8PM) Final.

Clemens/Smith v Van den Bergh/Van Gerwen.

Best of 13 sets.