ST HELENS darter Michael Smith came through a second round epic against Jose de Sousa to reach the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Matchplay in Blackpool on Wednesday.

Former World Matchplay runner-up Smith came from behind to defeat De Sousa 13-11 and will be in quarter-final action on Friday against Peter Wright.

Two-time champion Van Gerwen scored an 11-8 success over Ian White, while 2017 runner-up Wright produced an exceptional display in defeating Joe Cullen 11-5 with the highest average of this year's event so far.

The opening game of the evening saw Smith keep his hopes of a lifting a first TV ranking title alive as he came out on the right side of the first tie-break in this year's event.

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The start of the contest saw De Sousa continue his flying start to life on the Winter Gardens stage, as the Grand Slam of Darts champion averaged over 130 in winning the opening two legs.

Smith responded by winning five successive legs before De Sousa hit back to level at five-all, and three legs later the popular Portuguese pinned two double tops for an 80 checkout to lead 7-6.

De Sousa went on to lead 10-8, but was unable to manufacture a match-winning opportunity as Smith took out 71 to level and take the contest to a tie-break.

After going 11-10 up, De Sousa was first to attempt a match dart but after he came inside on his double 12 attempt, and Smith showed nerves of steel to land a skin-saving 108 finish.

A scrappy next leg went the way of Smith, and after De Sousa squandered four darts to level, the 2019 runner-up finished the job on double ten.

"I've been written off but I'm still here and in the quarter-finals now," said Smith, who landed seven of the game's 16 180s.

"Maybe two or three years ago I wouldn't have won that game, but I'm starting to win games that I grind out, and I'm hitting key shots at the right times.

"I wasn't at my best but I showed true grit, determination and will to win so I'm over the moon to get the win.

"Now that I'm in the quarter-finals, the aim is to win the tournament and I'd love so much to win this trophy.

"I want to make the final this year and put right the TV finals I've lost before - I'm sick of everyone telling me I'm going to win one!"St Helens Star: