Luke Nukes Barney

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Teenage sensation Luke Littler produced an inspired display to topple his darting idol Raymond van Barneveld on an extraordinary night at the Paddy Power World Darts Championship on Saturday.

The final day of darting action in 2023 saw the fourth round action draw to a close at London’s Alexandra Palace, on a night which saw 16-year-old Littler create another slice of history.

The World Youth Champion has created global headlines with his exploits in the sport’s flagship event, and he continued his ground-breaking run with a remarkable 4-1 success against Dutch legend Van Barneveld.

Littler – who was born 20 days after Van Barneveld’s epic 2007 World Championship triumph – delivered a darting masterclass to demolish the man 40 years his senior – averaging 105 to book his place in the last eight.

The Warrington youngster showed no signs of nerves in an electric start to the contest, wrapping up the opening set with a sublime 11-darter.

The World Youth Champion continued his blistering start to double his lead with a superb 12-darter, but Van Barneveld displayed some darting defiance with consecutive 127 and 80 finishes to threaten a comeback.

The Dutchman paid the price for missing two set darts at double 16 as Littler won the third stanza to move to the cusp of a historic win, but Van Barneveld did avoid the whitewash with a 14-dart hold in a fourth set decider.

Nevertheless, the teenage sensation was undeterred, reeling off consecutive holds in 14, 11 and 13 darts in a remarkable fifth set to continue his fairy-tale run in the capital.

“To beat one of my idols on the biggest stage of them all – it’s incredible. I still can’t believe it now,” admitted Littler, who will now play Brendan Dolan for a place in the semi-finals.

“Raymond said to me at the end: ‘I hope you go all the way and after the performance you’ve just put in, you can go all the way.’

“It is an incredible feeling. My cover shooting was unbelievable, my doubles got me over the line, and I think I am daring to dream now.”

That was followed by the game of the tournament so far, as Luke Humphries edged out Joe Cullen in an absorbing sudden-death leg to keep his World Championship dreams alive.

Humphries fought back from 3-1 down to deny Ricardo Pietreczko in round three, and he was forced to survive two match darts as he recovered from 2-0 and 3-2 adrift to defeat a heartbroken Cullen.

The pair landed 12 maximums apiece in a contest littered with quality, but after averaging 112 in set six to force a decider, Humphries won through to the last eight in the most dramatic fashion possible.

Having converted skin-saving 100 and 86 finishes to stay in contention, Humphries then squandered eight match darts in an extraordinary penultimate leg, before Cullen eventually forced a last-leg shoot-out.

Cullen had the advantage of throw in the decider, yet Humphries refused to be beaten, kicking off the leg with five perfect darts and crashing in a nerveless 100 checkout to triumph inside 12 darts.

“I don’t have any words for that,” reflected Humphries, who is eyeing his fourth Premier televised title in the space of five events.

“I think that’s one of the best games I’ve ever been involved in. I feel so sorry for Joe because he was fantastic.

“Sometimes in sport there doesn’t deserve to be a loser and I don’t think Joe deserved to lose that game, but I never give up and I found a way to win.”

Earlier in the night, Dolan ended Gary Anderson’s hopes of lifting a third World Championship crown, winning through a rollercoaster seven-set contest to continue his giant-killing campaign.

Having dumped out 2021 champion Gerwyn Price in round three, Dolan continued from where he left off in the capital, punishing a nightmare start from Anderson to race into a two-set lead.

However, Anderson came off the canvas to turn the contest on its head, surviving a set dart in set three, before levelling up proceedings with a superb 11-darter to round off set four.

Anderson continued his revival with back-to-back 14-darters to move 3-2 ahead, but after averaging 108 in set six, Dolan capitalised on missed opportunities from the Scot in the closing stages to win a thriller.

“I’m over the moon. I hold Gary in such high esteem,” claimed Dolan, who had accounted for Price just 48 hours earlier.

“When I walk into the place and I know I’m playing Gary, even for the bull-up I felt so anxious. There’s not many people I have to play that do that to me!

“To beat Gezzy and Gary – two of the best players this year – is a massive achievement, but there’s still so much more to be done.”

Earlier in the day, Rob Cross moved through to the quarter-finals for the first time since he lifted the title in 2018, averaging almost 99 to seal a straight-sets victory against a struggling Jonny Clayton.

Cross kicked off proceedings with a 140 outshot – the same finish he landed to win the Sid Waddell Trophy – and that set the tone for a dominant display, as he progressed to a last eight clash against Chris Dobey.

In Saturday’s opener, Scott Williams lived up to his showman reputation as he dumped out tenth seed Damon Heta to set up a last eight tussle against three-time champion Michael van Gerwen.

Williams started strongly, claiming the opening set before raising the roof midway through set two with a magical 170 checkout, while adding 108 and 110 checkouts to his highlights reel in the latter stages.

Meanwhile, Dave Chisnall won through a gruelling six-set affair against Daryl Gurney to progress to the quarter-finals for the fourth time in his career.

Chisnall fought his way into a two-set lead before Gurney responded with stunning 130 and 151 finishes to level, but the 2021 semi-finalist hit back by winning six of the next seven legs to triumph.

The Paddy Power World Darts Championship will resume on New Year’s Day, with four quarter-final ties taking place across a bumper double session on Monday.

The evening session will see Van Gerwen continue his quest for a fourth World Championship crown against Williams, while Humphries and Chisnall also collide.

Littler will headline the afternoon’s action when he locks horns with Northern Irish veteran Dolan, as Cross and Dobey go head-to-head on this stage for a second consecutive year.

2023/24 Paddy Power World Darts Championship

Saturday December 30

Afternoon Session
3x Fourth Round
Scott Williams 4-1 Damon Heta (3-2, 1-3, 3-2, 3-1, 3-2)
Dave Chisnall 4-2 Daryl Gurney (3-2, 3-2, 2-3, 0-3, 3-0, 3-1)
Rob Cross 4-0 Jonny Clayton (3-1, 3-0, 3-1, 3-2)

Evening Session
3x Fourth Round
Brendan Dolan 4-3 Gary Anderson (3-0, 3-1, 2-3, 1-3, 1-3, 3-1, 3-1)
Luke Littler 4-1 Raymond van Barneveld (3-1, 3-1, 3-2, 2-3, 3-2)
Luke Humphries 4-3 Joe Cullen (2-3, 0-3, 3-1, 3-2, 2-3, 3-0, 6-5)

Monday January 1
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT)
2x Quarter-Finals
Chris Dobey v Rob Cross
Luke Littler v Brendan Dolan

Evening Session (1900 GMT)
2x Quarter-Finals
Michael van Gerwen v Scott Williams
Luke Humphries v Dave Chisnall

Best of Nine Sets


Images: Kieran Cleeves / PDC

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