Durrant looks to keep his fairy-tale title push on track (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)
The 2019 World Matchplay enters the business end in Blackpool on Thursday as the first two Quarter-Finals are contested at the Winter Gardens.
A pulsating tournament so far has served up its annual dose of darting drama, with three of the top eight seeds bowing out and three in-form hopefuls getting set to enter uncharted territory.
Matches from the top half of the draw take centre stage on Thursday evening as the stakes and format increase heavily under the intense heat of the Blackpool stage.
The opening Quarter-Final sees world finalist Michael Smith up against former World Masters champion Mervyn King.
Smith is appearing at this stage of the competition for the first time, having come 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.
Runner-up in the US Masters at the beginning of the month, Smith is showing signs of a welcome return to form after a below-par season to date by his own high standards.
The 28-year-old has fallen short in two major finals over the past 14 months, but in the absence of Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson, is now presented with perhaps his best opportunity yet to open his account.
Smith, however, cannot afford to look beyond his next challenge as he comes up against one of the most experienced players on the circuit who has pulled off two shock results en route to the latter stages.
King defied the highest average of the opening round from UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall (102.96) to claim an impressive 10-5 victory with a ton average of his own before going on to dethrone defending champion Gary Anderson 11-8 in the Last 16.
The Bradwell ace is now aiming to reach the Semi-Finals in Blackpool a decade on from his last appearance at the penultimate phase but will need to improve on a record of just one win in his six meetings with ‘Bully Boy’.
The second show-down of the evening features a fascinating first televised encounter between reigning European Champion James Wade and three-time Lakeside Champion Glen Durrant.
Wade, winner here in 2007, is the only former champion left standing in the competition and has underlined his trademark grit and tenacity by coming through two marathon matches to reach the Last Eight for the eleventh time in 14 appearances.
He came through arguably the stand-out tie of the First Round in dramatic fashion, surviving five match darts in three separate legs before eventually denying Jeffrey de Zwaan in a sudden death shoot-out.
The Aldershot left-hander then held his nerve to see off Mensur Suljovic 13-11 and remain firmly in the running for a ninth televised title.
The Machine will be gearing up for yet another long-haul contest as he prepares to face the man who has made the darting world sit up and take notice this week.
Durrant is in dreamland having followed up his debut rout of Adrian Lewis with a sensational scalp of another multiple PDC World Champion in Michael van Gerwen on Tuesday.
A winner of two ProTour events, the proud Teessider has averaged 101 and 99 in his opening two matches, taking the prestige and pressure of the tournament in his stride, and will hold no fear heading into a clash with another of the PDC’s all-time greats.
A 40/1 outsider at the start of the tournament, ‘Duzza’ is now joint second favourite to claim what would be a fairy-tale first PDC major just seven months after securing his Tour Card on the final day of Qualifying School.
The action gets underway from 7pm BST, with all matches to be contested over the best of 31 legs. Matches must be won by two clear legs and will proceed for a maximum of five additional legs before a sudden death leg is required.
Betfred World Matchplay 2019 Match Schedule
Thursday July 25
7.15pm Michael Smith v Mervyn King
8.45pm James Wade v Glen Durrant