World Championship favourite Michael van Gerwen came close to becoming the latest shock exit at Alexandra Palace as he came back from the brink of defeat to eventually overcome an admirable effort from Gary Anderson.
Just a week after 16-time winner Phil Taylor crashed out in the second round in a seven-set thriller against Michael Smith, and after Friday saw Raymond van Barneveld head home, 13/8 favourite and world number two Michael van Gerwen found himself facing the prospect of going the same way when trailing 3-1 in sets.
World number 17 Anderson got into double-figures for maximums and twice threw for the match, but failed to take his golden opportunity and could only watch as the 24-year-old finished with a one-dart double eight to set up a quarter-final tie with Barney-conqueror Mark Webster.
The young Dutchman, averaging 102.2, was clearly relieved at having not gone the way of the man who defeated him in last year’s final, and there’s a definite sense that after a phenomenal 18 months.
Already this year he boasts victories in the Premier League Darts and the Players Championship, and a first Ally Pally victory in the Worlds will confirm his elevation to the very top.
But while a victory over Webster is far from a sure thing, it’s also worth noting that he remains in the side of the draw that includes Adrian Lewis.
The two-time winner and 7/4 second favourite negotiated his own way through to the quarters earlier on Saturday with a straightforward if uninspiring 4-1 victory over Mervyn King.
Before the mouth-watering prospect of a potential van Gerwen/Lewis semi-final is even considered, Lewis will need to up his game from the 91.17 he averaged against King to have any chance of progressing past quarter-final opponent James Wade (16/1)
Wade impressed with an average of 99.92 as he dispatched the unseeded Devon Petersen 4-0. The two face off at 9pm on Sunday, with van Gerwen opening proceedings against Webster at 7.15pm.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.