IT will go down as one of Ally Pally's all-time classics worthy of the final, with St Helens darter Michael Smith battling back to win a pulsating clash with eighth seed Jonny Clayton.

With the match level Smith held his nerve to win the tie-break to clinch the final set with some sublime finishing and reach the World Darts Championship quarter finals.

Although Clayton scored marginally higher than Bully Boy, the St Helens man's 45 per cent doubles success gave him the edge when it mattered.

The game captivated the crowd at Alexandra Palace and the millions of viewers glued to the television - and for all the tension and prize at stake it was played out with some refreshing sportsmanship. 

Clayton edged a thrilling first set in a deciding leg, before doubling his lead with a 3-1 success in set two.

St Helens Star:

Smith, a finalist in 2019, responded well, taking the third set by a two-leg margin before edging set four with a 13-darter to win the decider, and claiming the fifth set 3-1 to take the lead.

The duo then exchanged big finishes, with Smith’s 121 sandwiched between 161 and 105 checkouts from Clayton, who clinched set six on double 12.

Smith moved to the brink of victory when he finished 112 to break in the third leg of the deciding set, only for Clayton to take out 120 to force a tie-break.

The Premier League, Masters and World Grand Prix champion then executed a 62 finish to place himself a leg from glory, but it was to be Smith’s day as checkouts of 72, 65 and 68 earned him a breath-taking win.

St Helens Star:

He said: "It deserved to be the final and we went toe-to-toe, but Jonny missed a few doubles and kept letting me in.

"Once I got back in it I went off the boil a bit, but luckily I got the chance at the end and I took it."

Clayton had been in top form this year, arguably the best in the world in 2021, but Smith was never over-awed by his opponent or the occasion.

Smith said: "Going into that match I was saying to myself that I had a game plan to beat anyone and have to keep believing it.

"My scoring was not the best tonight but I hit the shots at the right time.

“I won’t be getting carried away. It’s only one game and I had poor spells. Jonny played so well that he brought a better level out in me.

St Helens Star:

“In the past I’ve probably been guilty of wanting it too much so I’m not making that mistake this year. I will focus on my darts and see how far that attitude can take me.”

He will now take a great deal of belief when he meets champion Gerwyn Price in the quarter finals.