Humphries Survives Scare As Dolan Sends Price Packing

Red Dragon Darts

Luke Humphries preserved his Paddy Power World Darts Championship hopes with a brilliant comeback victory over Ricardo Pietreczko, as former champion Gerwyn Price crashed out on a dramatic night at Alexandra Palace.

Day 11 of the sport’s flagship event saw six third round matches take place across a bumper double session on Thursday, with Humphries surviving a huge scare to end German representation in this year’s event.

The 28-year-old fought back from the brink to keep his hopes of lifting the Sid Waddell Trophy alive, overturning a 3-1 deficit to defeat German debutant Pietreczko in a rollercoaster seven-set affair.

Humphries was forced to use a new set of darts after one of his points snapped moments before he took to the stage, and he found himself staring down the barrel following a tentative start to the tie.

Pietreczko – roared on by a partisan German contingent at Alexandra Palace – won three consecutive sets to threaten a huge upset, producing a majestic 121 checkout to complete a clean sweep in set four.

However, Humphries lifted himself off the canvas in valiant fashion, claiming a scrappy fifth set before following up a 13-darter with a 91 finish to restore parity and create a thrilling finale.

The world number three was beginning to find his range, and he powered past Pietreczko in set seven to complete the comeback, reeling off legs of 16, 14 and 16 darts to spark jubilant scenes of celebration.

“That was one of the toughest games I’ve ever been involved in,” revealed Humphries, who will now play Joe Cullen for a place in the quarter-finals.

“It was a poor performance; playing with a different set of darts didn’t work for me, and having the majority of the crowd against me was really tough as well, but I dealt with it in the end.

“I felt dead and buried. I wasn’t even showing signs of a comeback, but I am where I am for a reason, so you to have show some sort of resilience, and I’m so happy to be through to the next round.”

However, while Humphries survived his scare, 2021 champion Price was dumped out by Brendan Dolan, who landed a trio of ton-plus finishes to secure a landmark win on the sport’s biggest stage.

The 50-year-old drew first blood with 130 and 144 checkouts, and although Price responded emphatically to level, Dolan edged back ahead with a clinical 90 kill on the bull in set three.

Price hit back once again with a clean sweep in set four, but after taking out a nerveless 120 outshot on his way to the fifth set,
Dolan wrapped up a famous win with a 13-darter on tops.

“To beat someone like Gezzy is unreal,” revealed the former World Grand Prix finalist, who was beaten by Price at the same stage of the 2021 tournament, before the Welshman went on to lift the title.

“I have the utmost respect for Gezzy. He is pure class. He didn’t play as well as he could have, and I took out some crucial finishes, which gave me the belief that it could be my night.

“It’s a big result for me, but I’m here to win. I know it’s going to be a battle to get there, but I’m ready to fight.”

Earlier in the day, Masters champion Chris Dobey overcame former European Champion Ross Smith in an Ally Pally classic to move through to a last 16 clash against World Champion Michael Smith.

The pair fired in 27 maximums between them in a captivating affair, which saw Dobey threatening to shatter a host of records at one stage, as his average climbed above 118 midway through set three.

Smith, who averaged 103 and crashed in 13 180s of his own, somehow responded to restore parity at two apiece, only for Dobey to counter with a brilliant late burst to book his place in round four.

Stephen Bunting kicked off Thursday’s action in style, producing a scintillating display to thrash Germany’s Florian Hempel in straight sets.

Bunting – who averaged 107.28 in his opening round win over Ryan Joyce – stormed into a two-set lead with a monstrous 112 average, despite a magnificent 164 from Hempel in the opening stanza.

The former Lakeside Champion maintained his clinical finishing in the latter stages, wrapping up victory with a 101 average to set up a mouth-watering last 16 tie against Michael van Gerwen.

Cullen, meanwhile, won through a six-set thriller against Ryan Searle, defying a spirited fightback from the Somerset star to reach the last 16 for a second consecutive year.

The Yorkshireman stormed into a two-set lead before Searle levelled with a brilliant 124 on the bull, but after surviving six set darts in a crucial fifth set, Cullen regained the lead before going on to clinch victory.

In the evening’s finale, Daryl Gurney reeled off three consecutive sets from 2-1 down to sink Ricky Evans and set up a meeting with 11th seed Dave Chisnall on Saturday afternoon.

Gurney’s ton-plus finishing inspired him to victory over Steve Beaton in round two, and it was a similar story against Evans, as he converted 164 and 130 checkouts in the latter stages to confirm his progress.

The third round action concludes on Friday, with two-time winner Gary Anderson up against Croatia’s Boris Krcmar, while Dutch legend Raymond van Barneveld plays Peter Wright’s conqueror Jim Williams.

The fourth round will also get underway during a star-studded evening session, as reigning champion Smith faces Dobey, while Van Gerwen and Bunting also collide.

2023/24 Paddy Power World Darts Championship

Thursday December 28
Afternoon Session
Stephen Bunting 4-0 Florian Hempel (3-2, 3-1, 3-2, 3-1) (R3)
Joe Cullen 4-2 Ryan Searle (3-1, 3-1, 0-3, 2-3, 3-2, 3-2) (R3)
Chris Dobey 4-2 Ross Smith (3-1, 3-1, 2-3, 1-3, 3-2, 3-1) (R3)

Evening Session
Brendan Dolan 4-2 Gerwyn Price (3-2, 1-3, 3-2, 0-3, 3-2, 3-2) (R3)
Luke Humphries 4-3 Ricardo Pietreczko (3-1, 1-3, 2-3, 0-3, 3-2, 3-1, 3-0) (R3)
Daryl Gurney 4-2 Ricky Evans (1-3, 3-2, 2-3, 3-2, 3-2, 3-1) (R3)

Friday December 29
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT)
Damon Heta v Berry van Peer (R3)
Jonny Clayton v Krzysztof Ratajski (R3)
Jim Williams v Raymond van Barneveld (R3)

Evening Session (1900 GMT)
Boris Krcmar v Gary Anderson (R3)
Michael van Gerwen v Stephen Bunting (R4)
Michael Smith v Chris Dobey (R4)


Images: Simon O’Connor/PDC

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