Michael van Gerwen is into the PDC World Darts Championship semi-finals for a seventh time after a 5-2 win over Darius Labanauskas on Sunday night.
The defending champion was not at his blistering best and even found himself 1-0 down to the distant underdog, but did more than enough to get over the line, finishing with a 99.5 average.
The Lithuanian plugged away throughout, hitting seven maximums, but poor finishing cost him against the world’s best, ending on a checkout ratio of just 24%, and even a cut finger after managing to stab himself with his own dart.
Van Gerwen will now meet UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall in the semi-finals on Monday night as he looks to win a fourth world title but retain it for the first time.
‘It was a poor game, I didn’t like it, to be fair,’ MVG told Sky Sports after the win.
‘When I play Gerwyn Price and people like that they give it to me, but it didn’t really happen and it was a bit flat.
‘I’m in the semi final now but I’ve still got so much more in the bank.
‘I feel a bit bad about this because I wanted to put on a good performance.’
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Labanauskas made the perfect start to the game, landing a 180 with his first three darts and claiming the first leg.
MVG started slowly as Lucky D had darts for the second, before losing it, and then won the third to threaten to put a set on the board.
The world champ pulled a 158 finish out of the bag to level the set and then started the deciding leg with a maximum against the darts, but the Lithuanian was unmoved and took out 80 to go 109 ahead.
Things were looking seriously ropy for MVG in the second set as he fell 2-1 behind as Labanauskas broke his throw in the third leg.
However, he retrieved the situation with two pretty comfortable legs to level up in sets and regain control of the match.
The Dutchman was averaging 99 at the end of the second set and looked absolutely nowhere near his best, which shows the excellence he achieves at peak performance.
MVG was asserting his dominance in the third set and Labanauskas didn’t help himself as he managed to stab himself with his own dart, requiring medical treatment.
As he pulled his darts from the board the underdog spun an arrow into the air and failed to catch it, causing a cut in his left hand which required a plaster.
It was absolutely nothing serious, but it is rare indeed to see a medic rush onto the big stage at Ally Pally.
Van Gerwen took the third set in three legs averaging 115 and things looked ominous for Labanauskas.
Mighty Mike was really motoring now, in the fourth set he got six darts through a 9-darter, produced a 137 checkout and averaged 114 to go 3-1 ahead.
There was no sign of it coming, but suddenly the MVG train went off the rails and he was really poor in the fifth set, missing seven darts at double and his scoring dropping off to allow Labanauskas to get another set on the board.
Normal service was resumed in the sixth as Van Gerwen took the first two legs, although Labanauskas went six darts through a 9-darter in the second before badly messing up on doubles. Mighty Mike was so far behind in the leg after the first two 180s that he attempted to ‘finish’ 141 before Labanauskas had his go at it, but even missing that didn’t cost him as he eventually made the Lithuanian pay for his misses on the outer ring.
MVG comfortably took the set in the next leg to go one set from victory.
Van Gerwen fell over the line a bit, missing a handful of doubles in the final set, but Labanauskas had apparently run out of steam and couldn’t stop the inevitable.