REIGNING champion Michael Smith was one of three stars to survive a scare in the Bahrain Darts Masters first round but his route to the final is now mapped out.

St Helens thrower Smith faces another of last night’s strugglers, Peter Wright, in the last of this evening’s quarter-finals, scheduled at 5.45pm, for the right to face Michael van Gerwen or Rob Cross in the semi-finals.

Smith survived two missed match darts in a dramatic finale to his first-round tie with Paolo Nebrida inside The Dome at the Bahrain International Circuit.

The Filipino ace pushed the former world number one all the way, finishing 118 to level in leg eight before moving 5-4 up, but he was punished for missing two darts at double 16 in the deciding leg as Smith pounced to keep alive his hopes of retaining the elegant Date Palm Trophy.

"I was too inconsistent and gave him chances, but I was putting too much pressure on myself," said Smith.

"It was a good test and luckily enough I'm back in the next round."

Smith’s quarter-final opponent Wright defied a 170 checkout from Haruki Muramatsu as he came from 3-2 down to eventually close out a 6-5 win over the PDC Asian Championship winner.

"I got away with it," said Wright. "It was always going to be a diffcult game after changing my set-up and my standing position, but I got there in the end and I can take the positives.

"Haruki played well and you can see the Asian players getting better and better now. They're quality darts players and they want to be World Champion."

On the other side of the draw, former US Darts Masters winner Nathan Aspinall was the other big name to produce a rescue act in his Bahrain opener.

Aspinall survived two missed match darts from Lourence Ilagan before completing his comeback from 5-3 down to edge out the 2023 PDC Asian Tour number one with a brilliant 12-darter in the deciding leg of their clash.

Ilagan came from a leg down to lead 3-1, and also moved 5-3 up before Aspinall produced back-to-back 14-dart legs to save the game - surviving misses at double 16 and double eight from Ilagan - before finishing 102 for a 12-darter to snatch victory.

"I started off well but he couldn't miss a double and he put me under pressure," said Aspinall.

"As I always do, I found a way to win and I think I pulled out three fantastic legs at the end. I'm very happy to get the win and it's a big day tomorrow."

Aspinall added: "Lourence is a fantastic player who's been around for many years and I knew I had a tough game.

"The inclusion of the Asian Tour players has been great and they've shown how good their standard is."

Aspinall will go on to play 16-year-old sensation Luke Littler in tonight’s quarter-finals.

Warringtonian Littler, who honed his skills at the St Helens Darts Academy and announced his arrival on the big stage with his PDC World Darts Championship run to the final at Alexandra Palace over the festive period, made his eagerly-anticipated return to action with a 6-3 comeback win over Hong Kong's Man Lok Leung.

Leung capitalised on a slow start from ‘The Nuke’ to open up a 2-0 lead, finishing 107 in the first leg.

Littler, though, finished 77 to open his account in leg three, levelled on double ten and then produced checkouts of 151 and 136 on his way to a 5-2 lead, before finishing 120 in leg nine to close out the win.

Van Gerwen was a whitewash winner, averaging 106 in an impressive defeat of Bahraini qualifier Hasan Haji.

"My darts were going well and overall I can't complain - to win 6-0 with a 106 average is always how you want to start a tournament," he said.

"I've never won this event and I quite like this trophy, so I want to win tomorrow!"

The Dutchman's quarter-final opponent will be Cross, who booked his spot with a 6-3 win over Tomoya Goto, despite the Japanese ace hitting back from 3-0 down to level their tie.

Welsh ace Gerwyn Price also endured some nervy moments before closing out a 6-4 win over Reynaldo Rivera, after the Filipino hopeful took out 104 in leg nine to keep his hopes alive and missed tops to take their tie into a deciding leg.

Luke Humphries produced a superb 6-0 whitewash over Bahrain's Abdulla Saeed in a strong start to life as World Champion.

The new world number one averaged over 98 and closed out a strong display against the qualifier with a 108 checkout as he moved through to a quarter-final tie with Price.

"I'm really pleased and obviously it was a decent performance," said Humphries, who has now won 20 consecutive matches.

"Abdulla played really good in patches, so it was important that I put in a good performance myself.

"I felt good up there and it was a solid performance; my scoring was good, my doubling was okay and I did what I needed to do.

"I hope the winning run keeps continuing. This is a fantastic World Series event, it's a great place to come and it would be a really nice one to put on my CV because the next thing for me is to win a World Series event."

The quarter-finals, semi-finals and final will all be played in one bumper session today from 4pm to 8pm.

UK viewers can watch the action on ITV4 from 4.30pm.


First Round:

Peter Wright 6-5 Haruki Muramatsu

Gerwyn Price 6-4 Reynaldo Rivera

Nathan Aspinall 6-5 Lourence Ilagan

Rob Cross 6-3 Tomoya Goto

Luke Littler 6-3 Man Lok Leung

Luke Humphries 6-0 Abdulla Saeed

Michael van Gerwen 6-0 Hasan Haji

Michael Smith 6-5 Paolo Nebrida

Quarter-Finals, best of 11 legs:

Luke Humphries v Gerwyn Price

Michael Smith v Peter Wright

Nathan Aspinall v Luke Littler

Michael van Gerwen v Rob Cross

Semi-Finals, best of 13 legs:

Humphries/Price v Aspinall/Littler

Van Gerwen/Cross v Smith/Wright

Final (best of 15 legs):

Humphries/Price/Aspinall/Littler v Van Gerwen/Cross/Smith/Wright