Michael van Gerwen edged out Joe Cullen in an epic final to clinch his sixth Cazoo Premier League title on an incredible night of action at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin on Monday.
Van Gerwen denied a heartbroken Cullen 11-10 in one of the greatest games to ever grace the Premier League stage, after the debutant missed a match dart at double 16 in a thrilling decider.
However, the Dutchman kept his cool to fire in a 13-darter and equal Phil Taylor’s haul of six Premier League titles, as he celebrates victory in a first PDC Premier event for over 18 months.
“I have been going through a really tough time, so to win this title means a lot to me,” reflected an emotional Van Gerwen, who eased past James Wade 10-4 in the semi-finals.
“I’m a happy man. Joe Cullen was phenomenal in that final. What a day. I’m over the moon.
“Of course I am going for more titles now. To have won this trophy here in Berlin is amazing.
“This last 18 months has hurt me. I know what I’m capable of, but this crowd in Germany today, they were absolutely sensational. I think they were a credit to the sport.”
Cullen drew first blood in the final with a sublime 11-dart hold, but after spurning three darts to break in leg two, he saw Van Gerwen seize the early initiative with a sequence of three straight legs.
The Yorkshireman responded with back-to-back legs to restore parity, only for Van Gerwen to restore his two-leg buffer at 5-3 courtesy of a 12-dart break.
Cullen reduced the arrears with a spectacular 141 finish in leg nine, and a clinical 114 checkout in leg 11 sparked a run of three straight legs for the Masters champion, who edged 7-6 ahead.
The next five legs went with throw, before Van Gerwen appeared to strike the decisive blow in leg 19, converting a sensational 92 kill to break throw in 12 darts and move one leg away from glory.
The drama continued as Cullen broke straight back in 13 darts to force a decider, but it was the Dutchman who claimed the spoils via double 14, having survived a match dart in the previous visit.
“Michael is a fantastic player and a fantastic champion, but I am absolutely gutted,” admitted Cullen, who was bidding to become the third successive debutant to be crowned Premier League champion.
“I cannot believe I’ve lost, but credit to Michael, he is a great guy and a wonderful champion.
“I think the second leg cost me, missing three at 32 for a break of throw. I’m absolutely devastated.”
Earlier in the evening, Cullen produced an astonishing display of power scoring to thwart Jonny Clayton’s bid for back-to-back Premier League titles.
Cullen stormed into a remarkable 6-0 lead against the reigning champion before closing out a resounding 10-4 victory, averaging almost 101 and crashing in 11 maximums – equalling the tournament record for 180s in a match.
In the second semi-final, Van Gerwen defeated 2009 champion Wade by the same scoreline to book his place in a record-equalling eighth Premier League showpiece.
The opening six legs of the last four contest were shared, but a blistering burst from Van Gerwen saw him win seven of the last eight to pull away from Wade and triumph with a 99 average and six 180s.
Van Gerwen – who now returns to the Netherlands for surgery on an arm injury – pockets £305,000 in total from the Premier League season, with three nightly wins earning him a £30,000 bonus in addition to the £275,000 top prize.
Cullen, meanwhile, claimed £125,000 as runner-up and took home a further £20,000 in bonus prize money.
Table-topper Clayton’s four night wins during the season boosted his £85,000 prize money to a total of £125,000, while Wade earned £105,000 following his strong season.
Cazoo Premier League Play-Offs
Monday June 13
Mercedes-Benz Arena, Berlin
Joe Cullen 10-4 Jonny Clayton
Michael van Gerwen 10-4 James Wade
Michael van Gerwen 11-10 Joe Cullen
Semi-finalists: £85,000 each
Fifth in league table: £75,000
Sixth in league table: £70,000
Seventh in league table: £65,000
Eighth in league table: £60,000
Nightly winner bonus: £10,000 x16