World Champion Michael Smith kicked off his bid for a maiden Cazoo Masters title with victory over Ross Smith, as five-time winner Michael van Gerwen and 2020 champion Peter Wright also enjoyed wins on Day Two in Milton Keynes.
Saturday’s second round action at the Marshall Arena saw Rob Cross and Gary Anderson create Masters history in their high-quality tussle, with Van Gerwen, Wright and Michael Smith all safely advancing to the last eight.
In a repeat of October’s European Championship final, Michael Smith gained revenge against his namesake Ross, who took out 126, 130 and 136 combinations to establish an early 4-2 lead.
The world number one’s superior scoring power saw him regain control, but the European Champion refused to relent, following up his fourth 180 with a 15-dart break to edge 7-6 ahead.
Nevertheless, the World Champion delivered a resounding riposte, winning four legs on the spin to power to victory with a 98 average, eight 180s and a 47% checkout success rate.
“The reception I got was unreal and I need to get used to it quick, because I was too busy enjoying it,” quipped Smith, who will take on UK Open champion Danny Noppert for a place in the semi-finals.
“That first session when Ross checked out 126 and 130, I thought it was the European Championship all over again!
“Every single time he left a ton-plus finish he hit it, but I stepped in, I took my chances and I’m glad to get the job done.”
Five-time Masters champion Van Gerwen averaged 104 and posted ten maximums to open his challenge with an impressive 10-7 win over last year’s semi-finalist Jose de Sousa.
Despite a significant disparity in the averages, De Sousa had an opportunity to restore parity at four apiece, until Van Gerwen restored his cushion with a 14-dart break.
De Sousa reduced the arrears to 4-6 with a classy 120 checkout in leg ten, although he was unable to make any inroads on the Van Gerwen throw, as the Dutchman advanced in convincing fashion.
“I think I played well. My scoring power was there,” said Van Gerwen, who now faces Cross in a repeat of November’s Players Championship Finals decider.
“I was cool, I was calm. Jose finished well and took his chances, but I think I deserved to win this game.
“It is a fantastic line-up tomorrow, but I just have to focus on my own game. I’m a winner and I’m here to win this tournament, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”
Cross and Anderson produced the highest-combined average in Cazoo Masters history on Saturday afternoon, with Cross running out a 10-6 winner to set up a tie against Van Gerwen.
The pair fired in eight 180s apiece in an astonishing contest, which saw Cross average 112.32 to Anderson’s 111.17 – the second and fourth highest averages in the event’s 11-year history.
Cross made a blistering start to race 4-0 ahead, kicking off with legs of 11, 13, 12 and 14 darts – featuring a 124 finish in leg three – before Anderson opened his account with a 109 outshot.
Cross restored his four-leg buffer at 7-3 after following up a clinical 81 kill with another 11-darter, later defying a brace of 12-darters from Anderson to cap off a devastating display.
“I enjoyed the game and I was strong when I needed to be strong,” reflected sixth seed Cross.
“I knew Gary was playing well, but I didn’t realise he was averaging 111! Fair play to him, he was absolutely brilliant there.
“I haven’t got a good record against Gary, so it was nice to put in a performance today. I’m loving my darts at the moment, and I’m in a good place.”
Wright survived a scare as he continued his bid for a second Masters title, fending off a spirited revival from Dave Chisnall to complete a 10-7 success.
Wright, a winner at last weekend’s Nordic Darts Masters, stormed 4-0 ahead with legs of 14, 13, 15 and 12 darts, and a clinical 113 finish in leg 11 catapulted him to the brink of a comprehensive win.
However, Chisnall won four successive legs from 9-3 adrift to threaten a famous fightback, only to miss double 18 for a 150 skin-saver in leg 17 as Wright wrapped up proceedings with a 101 average.
Saturday evening’s curtain-raiser saw Dirk van Duijvenbode record his first televised victory over Gerwyn Price, to set up a quarter-final showdown against Chris Dobey.
Van Duijvenbode, who had lost 15 of his 16 meetings against the Welshman, defied 170 and 116 finishes from Price midway through the match to register a landmark win.
The enigmatic Dutchman squandered five match darts in the penultimate leg, although he responded in some style, sealing his progression with a second 11-darter of the contest.
“Those match darts I had in the leg before were the hardest darts I’ve ever thrown,” conceded Van Duijvenbode, who now faces Dobey for a place in the semi-finals.
“I always set myself high standards so if I am not hitting a 100 average every game, I’m not happy, but I’m pleased with how I managed to compose myself in that last leg.
“Chris is playing well. He is playing with real confidence. We will both think we have a good chance, so it will be a hard game but I’m looking forward to it.”
In Saturday afternoon’s opener, Noppert produced a terrific fightback to deny Stephen Bunting in a thrilling last-leg decider, having trailed 6-2 at one stage.
The Dutchman converted 120 and 112 checkouts in the closing stages to move to the brink of victory, before pinning double eight to prevail, having wired the bull for a spectacular 170 clincher.
Elsewhere, Dobey continued his fine form at the Marshall Arena, following up his opening round win over defending champion Joe Cullen with a 10-8 victory over fifth seed Luke Humphries.
Humphries recovered from 8-5 adrift to level at eight apiece, but a sensational 160 finish from Dobey turned the tide, as the Bedlington thrower sealed his spot in a maiden Masters quarter-final.
Saturday’s other second round tie saw 2021 champion Jonny Clayton ease through to the quarter-finals with an emphatic 10-3 success against 2014 winner James Wade.
Clayton breezed into a 5-0 lead with a 104 average, and although Wade enjoyed a brief rally midway through the tie, the Welshman won the last three legs without reply to progress in style.
Sunday’s final stages will see the quarter-finals take place in the afternoon session, before the semi-finals and final are held in a bumper evening session at the Marshall Arena.
Sunday January 29
Afternoon Session (1245 GMT)
Dirk van Duijvenbode v Chris Dobey
Michael Smith v Danny Noppert
Peter Wright v Jonny Clayton
Michael van Gerwen v Rob Cross