Rob Cross prevailed in an epic contest to reach the semi-finals of the William Hill World Darts Championship.
The St Leonards-based thrower edged past Dimitri van den Bergh by five sets to four in this afternoon’s (Friday’s) quarter-final having at one stage led 4-1.
Cross will face Michael van Gerwen or Raymond van Barneveld in the last four tomorrow night and is expected to rise into the top 10 of the world rankings after an extraordinary first year on the Professional Darts Corporation ProTour.
The 27-year-old finished the match at Alexandra Palace, London, with a 97.13 average, hit 11 maximum 180s and was successful with 38% of his darts at a double.
Cross, who this time last year was watching the tournament on television, eased through the opening set 3-0, producing a terrific 12-darter against the throw in the third leg.
He also bagged the first two legs in the second set, the second of them in 13 darts. Cross began the next two legs with 180s, but lost them both as Van den Bergh began to find his range. Both men missed the bull to clinch the deciding leg before Cross landed double 16 to lead 2-0.
Van den Bergh, the world youth champion, took the third set 3-2. All five legs went with throw and Van den Bergh produced 13-darters in two of them.
The Belgian opened up a 2-0 lead in the fourth set, but missed four darts at a double to take the set 3-1 and Cross capitalised to claim it 3-2 for a three sets to one lead.
Cross seemed to be taking charge as he brilliantly raced through the fifth set in just 38 darts, winning the three legs in 11, 14 and 13 darts respectively.
Van den Bergh, though, showed tremendous character and no little skill to win nine of the next 11 legs, clawing his way back from 4-1 down to level at 4-4.
The 23-year-old began the sixth set with an 11-darter, then in the seventh set he landed a 134 outshot and another 11-dart leg. Cross served up a magnificent 10-darter in the eighth set, but couldn’t stop Van den Bergh winning the set 3-1 and taking the match all the way.
With the momentum and crowd firmly in his favour, Van den Bergh held throw at the start of the deciding set. He narrowly missed double 16 for a 132 checkout in the next leg and Cross followed a 180 by finishing 81 to level the set at 1-1.
The scoring remained extremely high, but things became unsurprisingly edgy on the doubles thereafter. After Van den Bergh missed three darts at double 16, Cross checked out 89 to lead 2-1 and sealed a nail-biting victory by hitting double one with his fifth match dart in the next leg.
Speaking to Sky Sports after the match, Cross said: “Honestly, the best player lost. I don’t know what happened. I just felt lethargic and went inside myself, and it wasn’t good enough. This man (Van den Bergh) hit me with everything and he’s going to be special.
“It was probably the most pressure I’ve felt, but I just wasn’t right for whatever reason. Dimitri punished me. I’m happy to win and you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but it’s got to get better tomorrow.
“It doesn’t matter (who his semi-final opponent is). Either one of them, if I play my game like I normally do, I’ve got a chance.”
Cross, who only last year was working as an electrician, has now won four matches on his debut in the sport’s blue riband event, having previously overcome Japanese thrower Seigo Asada 3-0, 13th seed Michael Smith 4-3 and 29th seed John Henderson 4-1.
So far this year he has won four Players Championship titles and was runner-up in the European Championship.