Damon Heta produced a nerveless display to edge out a brilliant Beau Greaves at the Mr Vegas Grand Slam of Darts, as Stephen Bunting dumped Peter Wright out of the tournament on a dramatic night in Wolverhampton.
Day Four of the £650,000 event saw Groups E-H conclude on Tuesday evening, as Greaves came within touching distance of creating Grand Slam history at WV Active Aldersley.
The Women’s World Matchplay champion was bidding to become the first woman to finish top of her group at the Grand Slam, and she produced another terrific display in her Group H shootout against Heta.
Greaves showed no sign of early nerves, opening her account with a 101 finish, before wiring a dart at the bull for a spectacular 170 checkout in leg three.
The 19-year-old returned to complete a 14-dart hold before extending her cushion with a clinical 99 kill, but Heta hit back superbly, landing 164 and 130 outshots in successive legs to level at three apiece.
Greaves regained her poise to lead 4-3, although she squandered a match dart at double 16 in the penultimate leg, and Heta capitalised to complete the turnaround with a 105 finish in the decider
“Fair play to Beau! I hope she doesn’t get a Tour Card because we’re going to be in trouble,” joked Heta, who now faces three-time winner Michael van Gerwen after eliminating the teenage sensation.
“Those big finishes were extremely crucial. Every other ton-plus checkout had to go. If I didn’t hit it, I was gone.
“Beau was insane tonight. We all know what she can do and I’m shaking like crazy after that, but to get over that line is massive for me.”
Elsewhere, 2021 quarter-finalist Fallon Sherrock was denied a place in the knockout stage for the second time in three years, after succumbing 5-2 to Rob Cross in their decisive Group G showdown.
Sherrock made the perfect start with a 15-dart break in the opening leg, only for Cross to win five of the next six legs to move through to a tantalising last 16 tie against World Matchplay champion Nathan Aspinall.
“Fallon is a fantastic player,” insisted 2018 World Champion Cross, who has advanced to the knockout stage in all seven of his Grand Slam appearances.
“I have been steady in the last few games. I threw the game against Michael [van Gerwen] away in my opinion, but tonight the doubles went in and that was the difference.
“I feel great at the moment. I have still got so much more to offer, but I’m sure that will come later on [in the tournament].”
Earlier in the night, Bunting converted a trio of ton-plus checkouts to defeat Wright in their Group E shootout, which condemned the world number two to his third group stage exit in four years.
Bunting recovered from an edgy opening leg with an inspired four-leg spell, following up 103, 101 and 107 finishes with a 13-darter to move to the cusp of victory at 4-1.
Wright responded with a nerveless 116 skin-saver and a 14-darter to reduce the deficit to 3-4, although Bunting hit back with a third maximum, before pinning double 16 to triumph.
“When you’re playing on stage against a legend like Peter it’s always difficult,” conceded Bunting, who averaged 99.38 to advance to the last 16 for the fourth time in five appearances.
“Everyone is questioning Peter’s form at the minute, but he’s one of the best players in the world, and every time I play him it’s always a huge battle.
“I held it together well and I’m so happy to be through to the next round. I’ve put a lot of hard work in behind the scenes, so this is a special moment.”
Bunting will take on world number seven Danny Noppert for a place in the last eight, after the Dutchman edged out Brendan Dolan in a last-leg tie to clinch top spot in Group F.
Noppert required four legs against Dolan to seal his place in the knockout stage, and after establishing a 4-2 cushion, he defied a late rally from the Northern Irishman to prevail with a 124 outshot on the bull.
UK Open champion Andrew Gilding also confirmed his qualification as the Group F runner-up, courtesy of an impressive 5-1 victory against PDC Asian Champion Haruki Muramatsu.
Muramatsu drew first blood with a 101 checkout, before Gilding reeled off five straight legs without reply – including a 136 finish in the penultimate leg – to prevail with a 99 average.
Gilding’s next assignment pits him against American newcomer Stowe Buntz, who secured top spot in Group E despite his deciding-leg defeat to 2014 runner-up Dave Chisnall, who rounded off his campaign on a high.
Van Gerwen recovered from 4-2 down to defeat his eliminated compatriot Martijn Kleermaker in a scrappy Group G encounter, maintaining his 100% record in this year’s event in the process.
Meanwhile, Germany’s Ricardo Pietreczko punished a below-par display from Aspinall to win through their nine-leg affair, although Heta’s win over Greaves ensured Aspinall retained top spot in Group H.
The 2023 Grand Slam of Darts knockout stage will get underway on Wednesday, as three-time champion Gerwyn Price takes on two-time runner-up Gary Anderson in a repeat of their memorable 2018 final.
World Grand Prix champion Luke Humphries will play nine-dart hero Ryan Searle, while three-time finalist James Wade faces Masters champion Chris Dobey.
Elsewhere, 2022 World Youth Champion Josh Rock opens the evening’s proceedings against Poland’s Krzysztof Ratajski, with both players eyeing a place in a maiden Grand Slam quarter-final.
2023 Mr Vegas Grand Slam of Darts
Tuesday November 14
Group Stage x8 – Groups E-H Final Matches
Dave Chisnall 5-4 Stowe Buntz (E)
Ricardo Pietreczko 5-4 Nathan Aspinall (H)
Michael van Gerwen 5-4 Martijn Kleermaker (G)
Andrew Gilding 5-1 Haruki Muramatsu (F)
Danny Noppert 5-4 Brendan Dolan (F)
Stephen Bunting 5-3 Peter Wright (E)
Rob Cross 5-2 Fallon Sherrock (G)
Damon Heta 5-4 Beau Greaves (H)