MICHAEL VAN GERWEN won through to the BetVictor World Matchplay semi-finals with an epic 16-13 defeat of plucky Ian White on Thursday night, as Peter Wright enjoyed a 16-7 quarter-final win over Gerwyn Price in Blackpool.
Van Gerwen, last year's World Matchplay runner-up, continues his challenge to claim the Winter Gardens title after reaching the last four, but had to produce some darts of the highest quality to come back from behind four times.
White, who knocked out Stephen Bunting and Simon Whitlock to reach his first Blackpool quarter-final, made a brilliant start to lead 3-0, and after van Gerwen hit a 180 as he hit back in the fourth the Stoke ace followed a 14-darter with checkouts of 106 and 105 for a 6-1 lead.
Van Gerwen took the next three to cut the gap and the pair then traded 11-arters before van Gerwen landed six perfect darts with two maximums in the 13th as he pulled back to 7-6.
Van Gerwen then levelled with a 72 checkout, with White matching his 180 in the next to lead 8-7 before the Dutchman produced a 174 score and a 72 finish to win leg 16.
White then took out 48 and 80 to move 10-8 up, before van Gerwen won a spectacular 19th leg with a 177 score and a 156 checkout, before tops again squared the contest for a 14-darter.
Van Gerwen then landed another maximum as he moved ahead for the first time at 11-10 before double eight helped him to extend his lead to 12-10 - but White once again responded as he finished 60 to hit back and landed two 180s in a 12-darter to tie the contest once more.
Incredibly, White then regained the lead with another superb 12-dart leg, only to see van Gerwen level at 13-all with the aid of a 177 before punishing missed doubles in the next two to lead 15-13.
White battled to stay in the contest, but seven further missed doubles cost him as van Gerwen stepped in on tops to finally seal victory following a thrilling contest.
"It's amazing to win a game like this," said van Gerwen. "Ian played fantastic darts but I played really well and hit the doubles at the end, so it's a big pressure off my shoulders.
"To win a game like this is quite emotional and fantastic. Ian put me under pressure constantly and full credit to him.
"I was struggling at times and I know I can play better, but I'm glad to win this game and proud to be in the semi-finals again."
White admitted: "It's very disappointing but I'm showing everyone what I can do, getting up there to play the world number one and pushing him right to the end.
"I had a good start and I knew I had to get ahead and try and stay ahead. When I got to 12-12 it just didn't go for me, but he did well to get through it."
World number five Peter Wright remains on course to reach his third televised final of the year after ending Welsh ace Gerwyn Price's dream Blackpool debut with a bit 16-7 win.
Former rugby ace Price has made a big impression after only 18 months on the PDC circuit, and knocked out Michael Smith and Adrian Lewis to reach his maiden major quarter-final.
However, he never recovered from seeing Wright storm into a 10-2 lead as his Winter Gardens dream was ended.
Price had landed a 180 in the opening leg only to see Wright finish a 13-darter to claim first blood, and though double two levelled, a 101 checkout and finishes of 11 and 12 darts saw the Scot move 4-1 up.
Price finished 80 to respond, but Wright took out back-to-back 14-dart legs, a brilliant ten-darter and a 102 finish as he won six in a row to move 10-2 up.
Price took his third leg before being puninshed for missed doubles as Wright took an 11-3 lead before finishing 66 to move nine legs clear.
Price's bull finish in the 16th leg was matched by Wright in the next before double 16 put him 14-4 up, with the Welshman taking out 76 and 56 to hit back with two legs.
Another brilliant ten-darter, though, moved Wright to the brink of victory, and though he missed three match darts in the next leg, he had enough breathing space to return in the next on double four to book his semi-final spot.
"The idea was to come out all guns blazing and get a super lead to make it harder for the opponent to try pull it back, and it worked," said Wright.
"Gerwyn played some fantastic darts against Adrian Lewis and I was expecting the same again but he didn't turn up like he did on Tuesday, and I didn't have to be super-consistent.
"I fell asleep halfway through the match and he played some brilliant darts but it was usually on his own throw and then I came out in the next leg and played decent darts on my throw.
"He'll be back, he's only learning the darts sport and he's one to watch out for - he will be dangerous.
"I've been saying that the World Matchplay would be the one for me this year and I've got to back my words up and go and do it. I'm in the semi-finals, and who knows what can happen now."
Price admitted: "On Tuesday and Sunday they were going in and today they were running away from me; I couldn't find the target, whether it was trebles or doubles.
"I was probably still on a high from Tuesday and I've got to learn to come down from that and to get ready for the next game.
"I was just happy to be here in the beginning and to win two games is a dream come true for me, but I've got to learn.
"I knew that I could come here and beat Michael, and Adrian was going to be a hard game but I've beaten him before and I didn't know whether I could do it over this format.
"I was confident going into this game but I think my mind was drifting elsewhere and I wasn't 100 percent like I was on Tuesday, but I'll learn from this and hopefully push on now."
Van Gerwen defeated Wright in the finals of the 2014 World Championship and 2015 UK Open, but lost out to the Scot in the Japan Darts Masters last month when he could only watch on as his rival took out a 141 checkout.
"It's going to be an amazing semi-final," added van Gerwen. "He's had a fantastic season so far but I'll be the huge favourite and I want to beat him.
"Peter's going to be a good opponent to play against. He's a fantastic scorer and a good finisher so I need to make sure that I take advantage of his mistakes."
The quarter-finals conclude on Friday night with the remaining two matches, as 2007 champion James Wade takes on Austrian ace Mensur Suljovic before reigning champion Phil Taylor faces Premier League semi-finalist Dave Chisnall.
Van Gerwen's win has seen his odds to win the tournament with sponsors BetVictor cut to 4/6, with Wright now 10/1 to take his first major title on Sunday.
BetVictor World Matchplay- Thursday July 23- Quarter-Finals
Peter Wright 16-7 Gerwyn Price
Michael van Gerwen 16-13 Ian White