Wright wins the eighth set! The final is level at 4-4!
Smith holds for 2-1 … then he hits consecutive 180s to put Wright under tonnes of pressure on his own throw … eventually, Wright hits his double nine, having missed a shot at double 18, and we are all square in this final. As a spectacle, even though it’s been a ding-dong battle, it feels like it hasn’t really taken off yet. But that is probably about to change, locked as they are at 4-4.
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Wright holds for 2-0 in the eighth! The 2020 champion, who just changed his darts, has a poor shot first up at double nine, but then hits one / double four to win the second leg and he looks on course to even this final up at 4-4.
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Wright breaks at the start of the eighth! He now has the darts to try and take a 2-0 lead in and stem the flow of success for his opponent …
Five legs in a row took Smith into the lead in the match for the first time …
Smith wins the seventh set and leads 4-3!
“Bully Boy” Smith has hit back from 2-0 down to lead 4-3. This time, Smith closes out a 93 finish with a treble 19 and a double 18. He’s warming up now, really warming up, and the crowd respond as he is starting to produce the darts which has got him to this advanced stage of the tournament.
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Smith holds in style for 2-0 in the seventh! He’s on the verge now of moving into a 4-3 lead. Just in case you need reminding, it’s first to seven.
Smith breaks at the start of the seventh! First, he misses a chance at tops as the nerves appear to creep back in … but Wright then misses THREE darts at the double 11 … Smith gets a chance again, and nails double top, to move into the lead in the match overall! It’s 1-0 to Smith in the seventh set.
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Smith wins the sixth set! It’s 3-3!
Smith breaks! He fluffs a chance at an initial finish, but with Wright on 184, he comes back to the oche and nails a double 16 to force it to 3-3 in sets, taking the sixth set by three legs to one.
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Smith holds again for 2-1 in the sixth. He’s finding a lot more rhythm now with his throwing, but is still being put under considerable pressure by his opponent.
Smith holds, then Wright holds, and it’s 1-1 in legs in the sixth set. The standard is much higher now, with Wright holding that 3-2 lead overall.
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Wright wins the fifth set, and leads 3-2!
Smith butchers an attempted 106 finish, leaving Wright to close out the leg, and the set, with a comfortable hold. The 2020 champion, Peter Wright, edges back in front having previously seen his 2-0 lead in sets evaporate.
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Smith holds with a nerveless, smooth shot at double six at the first time of asking. It’s 2-2 in legs in the fifth set – a huge leg now coming up.
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Smith breaks! He hits his 172nd 180 of the tournament, beating Gary Anderson’s previous record of 171 … and now produces an 11-dart leg of his own to break straight back for 2-1.
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Wright breaks! The players trade 180s, one after the other, but Wright keeps the pressure up with an 11-dart leg, hitting double nine to take the leg, and he leads 2-0 in legs in the fifth.
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Wright holds, with double eight, for 1-0 in this crucial fifth set.
Here we go. This final has come to life with Smith and Wright locked at 2-2. Can Smith turn it around and forge a 3-2 lead from 2-0 down?
Smith wins the fourth set! It’s level at 2-2!
Drama. Looking out of the leg and hence the set, Wright digs out a 180 to leave himself a 46 finish. Smith then has a shot at tops to win it, but misses … Wright is back on the oche can’t hit his double, and Smith nails a double 10 to level up the final at 2-2 in sets!
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It’s 2-2 in the fourth. Wright holds with a strong leg – and we have a decider in the fourth set. This is a hugely significant leg now … will it be 3-1 or 2-2 in sets?
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Smith holds, and leads 2-1 in the fourth. Wright has a 141 to try and break – but can’t make it and Smith then hits double 16 to lead 2-1. Smith has now hit a 180 in each of the last six legs …
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Smith now holds in style at the start of the fourth, hitting double 10, and bringing a big roar from the crowd, who are also starting to warm up a little now. The averages for both players are now creeping up towards 100, despite that shambolic second leg of the match.
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Smith wins the third set!
A settler for the St Helens man, he closes out the third set and takes it 3-1. He’s just starting to warm up …
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Wow! Smith takes out a 167 finish for 2-1 in the third set … a fantastic effort – treble 20, treble 19, bull. That’s more like it. Wright looks a little peeved at that.
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Smith holds for 1-1 in the third set. A 12-dart leg and a step in the right direction. Wright leads 2-0 in sets.
Wright holds for 1-0 in the third. He only needs two darts to hit a single three and a double four. Smith still looks distressed, he’s not doing himself justice this evening, but can he find some consistency – and start hitting some doubles?
The crowd sounds a bit flat at the moment, considering this is a world final. It’s as if that farcical 28-dart leg has taken the shine off things a bit. Anyway, here comes the third set. Can Smith get on the board?
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Wright wins the second set 3-1 and leads 2-0!
Another exemplary finish from Wright, of 124 this time, and he’s really taken a grip of this final. He leads 2-0 in sets.
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Wright breaks – a 148 finish! He buries a double 14 finish and Smith looks ashen-faced with the way this is developing … both players averaged 82 in that messy first set, by the way. As it stands, Wright it taking his chances.
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Wright holds by hitting double top, but Smith again had a chance to break there and move into a 2-0 lead in the set … but his head drops again when he misses it – he had three darts and only 40 to get. It’s poor stuff from the losing finalist in 2019 so far.
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Smith holds for 1-0 in the second set. He opens in confident fashion, nailing a ton-80. He then goes on to have a 65 finish and fluffs it, getting the outer bull, but missing tops. He makes no mistake second time, though, and he now leads 1-0 in the second set.
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Wright wins the first leg 3-1!
Wright breaks for the first time and takes the first leg. Smith looks concerned, as well he might, because he’s consistently missing his finishes. He had one shot at double top and one at 10s there, to force a deciding leg in the set and missed both.
Early nerves for Smith or something more lasting. We’ll see. Peter Wright leads, 1-0 in sets.
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Wright holds for 2-1, nailing a double four, so we are with the darts, although it’s hardly been textbook stuff so far.
Smith holds for 1-1! Wow. That was a mess. Now it’s Wright’s turn to miss two attempts at double top … Smith has just seven and fluffs it … and then a quite incredible series of missed finishes ensues … I’ve never seen anything like this! A 28-dart leg. Smith finally nails ‘madhouse’, double one, much to the delight of the crowd. Nervy, poor darts there but it will get better.
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Wright holds! But only just, in a remarkable first leg. Smith hits consecutive 180s to leave himself 41 for a very handy opening break. He has two attempts at tops, misses both on the high side, and Wright duly seals his opening hold.
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The match begins!
Here we go, Wright with the darts in the first leg of the first set.
Michael Smith takes the stage. He stops on the way there to give his wife and kids a kiss, then applauds the fans after climbing the stairs. And here comes Peter Wright, with a fetching red mohican, along with a greenish alligator skin design on the right side of his head. He does a little dance to get the crowd going even more …
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Wayne Mardle predicts Wright to win 7-5 … as does his fellow pundit, Part.
Don’t forget, you can email me or tweet @LukeMcLaughlin with any thoughts on the match … we should be getting started in five minutes or so. Sky Sports Darts are currently having a little recap of these players’ paths to the final.
“Something’s gotta give,” observes the Sky Sports pundit John Part. Which is unarguable, really, as someone is going to have to win and someone is going to have to lose this.
The stage is set. Ally Pally is packed full of noisy fans in fancy dress enjoying a couple of shandies. The atmosphere is already electric and we are still a few minutes from the start of the PDC World Darts Championship final.
“What kinda dosh are these guys playing for?” asks Dean Kinsella. “I thought the $600,000 Carlsen won for defending his world champion’s crown seemed kinda small fry.”
Tonight’s winner gets a cool £500,000. The losing finalist can console themselves with £200,000. The losing semi-finalists bagged £100,000 each.
“Both these players are exceptional dartists, and more than capable of winning tonight, which will hopefully make for a classic encounter,” emails Simon McMahon. “I think Wright is the steadier player, less likely than Smith to blow hot and cold, or play the occasion rather than the board. Though if he blows more hot than cold, Smith will be hard to live with and could easily win 7-3 or 7-4. I’m going for Wright 7-5 though, I think. Game on!”
The real question is … what is Peter Wright going to do with his barnet tonight?
“I said two weeks before the Matchplay that I was going to win that and the World Championship so I have got to back my big mouth up and try to win it,” Wright is quoted in a story on the official PDC website. “I knew that I’d hit a lot of 180s [in the semi-final] but didn’t know it was 24. To be honest, I’m capable of hitting a lot more.
“The semi-final was the best game I’ve ever played in. Especially against somebody who is hitting back at me like Gary did. Michael has been smashing in the 180s as well so hopefully we can both keep doing that and break records in the final again. I think both of us are capable of blowing the record for 180s in the final out of the water.”
Fingers crossed for a thriller.
Michael Smith lost the 2019 final 7-3 to Michael van Gerwen. But is tonight his night?
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Over at Old Trafford, Wolves are a couple of minutes away from beating Manchester United 1-0. Barry Glendenning has the latest:
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Head-to-head final stats from PDC’s Twitter. Smith’s average of 100.65 across the tournment is .001 behind Wright’s. Smith’s checkout percentage of 48% is considerably superior to Wright’s 40%. Both have won 22 sets.
“Purity, passion, drama”. Here’s Sean Ingle with some thoughts on darts renaissance:
The 2020 PDC champion, Peter Wright, played through the pain of a knee injury to beat Gary Anderson and book a place in tonight’s final against Michael Smith. The quality of that performance will be hard to top – Wright threw an astonishing 24 180s, a tournament record, with a three-dart average of 104. “I knew that I’d hit a lot of 180s but didn’t know it was 24,” Wright said. “To be honest, I’m capable of hitting a lot more.” In his semi-final win against James Wade earlier yesterday evening, Smith averaged 101, registering a relatively modest 16 180s.
It would be exaggerating to say the nation’s streets are going to be deserted during this hotly anticipated final, but this tournament has cut through like few others, capturing the imagination of devoted darts-watchers across the world and doubtless winning the sport thousands of new fans.
The past few days have been littered with memorable matches and high-quality arrows, and the smart money is on Wright and Smith to round off a compelling tournament with a fittingly dramatic final. TV coverage begins at 8pm, and the action starts at 8.15pm. Pre-match reading and more coming up.