A new champion will be crowned at the 2019 World Matchplay as Rob Cross and Michael Smith face off for the title at the Winter Gardens on Sunday.
The two in-form Englishmen have stormed into their first Matchplay finals and now stand on the cusp of lifting the Phil Taylor Trophy and claiming a place in the darting history books.
The box office pair, who formed England’s World Cup of Darts side last month, now go head-to-head in a fitting climax to what has been an unforgettable week of darting drama in Blackpool.
Cross had fallen at the second hurdle in both previous appearances in this prestigious competition, but has turned on the style to reach his third major final of the season.
The 28-year-old is aiming to finally follow up his fairy-tale World Championship triumph in January 2018 by adding the sport’s second biggest prize to his haul, having finished runner-up in both the UK Open and Premier League this year.
Cross was ruthless in winning through to the Quarter-Finals, dropping just eight legs in victories over Chris Dobey (10-3) and Polish number one Krzysztof Ratajski (11-5).
The world number two then held off a magnificent fightback from Stephen Bunting to close out a 16-14 victory with a 101 average and a 170 checkout along the way.
He then booked his place in the final in sensational fashion, reeling off eight consecutive legs from 15-9 down to deny Daryl Gurney in a thrilling Semi-Final and pull off one of the greatest comebacks in the sport’s recent history.
Following Saturday’s heroics, Cross may feel his name could already be written on the trophy, but he faces another formidable task against a player back at the top of his game.
Smith finds himself in a third major final in the space of 14 months, and after finishing runner-up in both the 2018 Premier League and 2019 World Championship, will be desperate to go all the way and finally secure a maiden major title.
The former Shanghai Masters winner came from 4-1 down to defeat debutant Jamie Hughes 10-7 in Round One before holding his nerve in a tense tie break to deny Max Hopp 12-10 in another high quality affair.
He then shrugged off the challenge of Mervyn King with a 16-11 success in the Last Eight before ending Glen Durrant’s dream debut run with a 17-10 victory which saw him land ten doubles in eleven attempts at one stage and end with an average of 100.7.
Smith’s overall record against Cross, however, may be a cause for concern, having won just three of their 15 previous meetings, losing each of their last three including back-to-back Premier League defeats and an 11-7 loss in the Semi-Finals of the UK Open.
The final gets underway from 7pm BST and will be contested over the best of 35 legs. Should it fail to be won by two clear legs, the match will proceed for a maximum of five additional legs before a sudden death leg is required.
Cross: “I didn’t feel myself [in the Semi-Finals] so I’ve got to be right for the final, and I will be.
“If I’m ready, then anything can happen.
“To be in a third consecutive major final is amazing. This venue is iconic and it will be special for me.
“I want to go up there and produce – I need to come out tomorrow and be ruthless. I’m really looking forward to the game.”
Smith: “I’m overwhelmed to be in the final.
“It feels good, especially with the year I’ve had where everyone seems to write me off.
“I’ve been in finals before and I have to get a win soon.
“If it doesn’t happen [on Sunday] then I’ll be back stronger, but I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.
“As long as I keep believing that I’ll win one, I know for a fact that I will.”