Daryl Gurney, Rob Cross and Glen Durrant were among five players to clinch places in the knock-out stages of the 2019 Grand Slam of Darts in Wolverhampton on Monday.
Day Three of the unique cross-code major saw the final matches take place in Groups E-H, with a clutch of major title winners and a debutant qualifier among those to progress.
World Matchplay champion Cross held his nerve in a tense contest to fend off a late fightback from local hero Jamie Hughes in their Group E shoot-out.
Cross led 4-1 and looked to be coasting through to the knockout phase, but seven missed match darts across two legs allowed Hughes to take the match to a last-leg decider.
Hughes kicked off the decider with a 180 but failed to hit a treble with his next 12 darts, and Cross took full advantage to edge over the line and set up a Last 16 clash with Peter Wright.
“I’ve not been sharp all through the group stage,” conceded Cross, the number two seed.
“I got away with it again today, which is a blessing, but I know I’ve got to be much better than that. I can’t keep switching off against capable players.
“Nothing has gone to plan this week, I’ll be glad to see the back of that group stage and now I’ve got to improve on Wednesday or I’m going to lose.”
Wright, who needed to win just two legs against World Series Finals runner-up Danny Noppert to secure qualification, claimed a convincing 5-2 victory which saw him top Group F, meaning Ryan Harrington had to beat Wayne Warren to progress.
Harrington’s dream debut continued with a 5-1 demolition of the Welsh BDO veteran and the qualifier shared an emotional moment with his father – two-time World Matchplay champion Rod – on stage after the biggest win of his career.
“That’s got to be one of the hardest games I’ve ever played in my life,” admitted the 29-year-old.
“It was so scary tonight, I felt really nervous but it was fantastic playing in front of this amazing crowd again, I’m thankful for their support.
“I wouldn’t be up here trying to be a professional if I didn’t think I could achieve what my dad has on stage. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think I could beat the best.”
Proud father Rod revealed the stresses of watching from the sidelines, adding: “There was a little tear in my eye, I must admit.
“I’ve never been so nervous, much more so than when I was playing because then it’s in your own hands.
“Now I know what my wife and family went through all these years! Whatever Ryan achieves in this sport will mean more to me than anything I ever did.”
Harrington will now meet Dave Chisnall, who made it three wins from three with a comfortable 5-1 triumph over the eliminated Lisa Ashton to top Group F.
Daryl Gurney produced crucial checkouts of 101 and 161 in a 5-2 win over Northern Irish World Cup partner Brendan Dolan to take victory in their Group G shoot-out.
“It was a bit of a struggle, when I’m playing Brendan I find it hard to be aggressive which is my natural game,” Gurney admitted.
“A bit of patience got me through the game, my tons eventually turned into 140s and I hit some big shots at crucial moments.
“I’m just relieved to get over the line and now I can look ahead to the rest of the tournament.”
Gurney will now meet Michael Smith in the Last 16 after the World Championship runner-up came from 3-0 down to defeat the already-eliminated Martin Schindler to top Group H.
The final game of the night saw a Group H shoot-out between Glen Durrant and Nathan Aspinall, with ‘Duzza’ whitewashing the UK Open champion in a scrappy affair to progress alongside Smith.
“I’m standing here disappointed with a 5-0 win over one of the best players in the world,” said Durrant.
“An 86 average is nowhere near where I want to be, it’s nowhere near the level I’m practicing at and I know I’m much better than that.
“For a lot of the game I was thinking ‘maybe I should be out of the tournament already’ but I’ve somehow made it through and now I’ve got to take my chance.”
Durrant will now take on in-form German Gabriel Clemens, who averaged 110 in an outstanding 5-2 demolition of already-eliminated Dutchman Richard Veenstra to top Group G.
Tuesday will see the final group games in Groups A-D take place, with Michael van Gerwen, Gerwyn Price and Gary Anderson among the players in action, while Adrian Lewis and Jim Williams face a winner-takes-all shoot-out in Group A.
Boylesports Grand Slam 2019 Results
Monday November 11
Groups E-H Final Matches
Gabriel Clemens 5-2 Richard Veenstra (G)
Michael Smith 5-4 Martin Schindler (H)
Dave Chisnall 5-1 Lisa Ashton (E)
Daryl Gurney 5-2 Brendan Dolan (G)
Peter Wright 5-2 Danny Noppert (F)
Ryan Harrington 5-1 Wayne Warren (F)
Rob Cross 5-4 Jamie Hughes (E)
Nathan Aspinall 0-5 Glen Durrant (H)