Darts has often been laughed at when talked about in comparison with other sports, with people failing to see past the pub-set competitions and the ages of the competitors.
However, it has blossomed into one of the UK’s most popular sports in recent years; not just as an activity to play down the pub, but also something we love watching, with events such as Premier League Darts packing out arenas and drawing in millions of TV viewers.
Of course, with such tiny margins between success and failure, this can make darts one of the most intriguing and exasperating sports to watch in the world. So, with that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of three of the greatest darts matches of all-time.
1. Phil Taylor vs. Raymond van Barneveld – 2007
Sometimes, big events live up to their billing with a feast of sporting talent, as the best go against the best and showcase everything they’ve got.
The 2007 PDC World Darts Championship final between Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld did exactly that. The two players were at the very top of their game at the Circus Tavern in Essex, both recording three-dart averages of over 100 (Taylor = 100.86, van Barneveld = 100.55).
Taylor looked set to obliterate the Dutchman early on, winning the first eight legs to take a two-set lead. Barneveld started to get into the game, but couldn’t stop Taylor from going up 3-0 – seemingly cruising on his way to a fourth consecutive, and 12th in total, PDC World Championship.
The Dutchman really began to turn the screw in the coming sets, trailing just 3-4 in sets to Taylor. When he grabbed the fifth set, though, it looked as if Taylor would hold on for victory, but Barney pulled it back to 5-5, before then going into a two-leg lead at 6-5. The 12th set went to another deciding leg, which Taylor won to ensure the final would go to a final and deciding 13th set.
After 10 incredibly close legs of the deciding set, there was still nothing to separate the pair, meaning a sudden death leg was required. No less than five championship points were squandered, before Barney finally hit double top and, with it, his first PDC World Darts Championship.
2. Adrian Lewis vs. Phil Taylor – 2013
The Power took part in another classic encounter at the semi-finals of the 2013 Grand Slam of Darts against Adrian Lewis.
The pair were both throwing outstanding darts that day, with Taylor boasting a remarkable 109.76 average and Lewis an even bigger 110.99 – with no less than 32 180s!
It was a flawless display from the pair, with Taylor winning the contest 16-9 in legs, setting up a final against Robert Thornton, which he subsequently won to claim the title.
3. Michael van Gerwen vs. James Wade – 2014
While not the closest of matches, and definitely not containing the drama of the previous two, Michael van Gerwen showed why he is one of the greatest of all-time when he threw 17 consecutive perfect darts.
Painfully though, he was just one dart away from being the first ever man to throw two perfect nine-darters back-to-back. That’s what the World Darts Championships are about.
Unsurprisingly, in that kind of form, after beating Wade in the semi-final, van Gerwen then won his first ever PDC World Darts Championship, beating Peter Wright 7-4 in the final.
4. Dennis Priestly v John Part – 2009
No matter what sport it is, there’s nothing quite like a great comeback.
And in the 2009 Players Championship Finals last 16, Yorkshire’s Dennis Priestly performed a remarkable turn around against the tournament’s reigning champion, John Part, turn about a 5-0 deficit to somehow win 6-5.
Again, as with other sports, comebacks are so often performed by champions, whose never-say-die attitude is what sets them apart from the rest.
5. Mike Gregory v Phil Taylor – 1992
Just two years on from his first triumph at the BDO World Championship, Taylor was back in the final at the Lakeside Country Club in Surrey as the number one seed. His opponent was number two seed Mike Gregory.
This game went all the way to sudden death after reaching 5-5 in both sets and legs, the first such occurrence at the World Championships. It was Gregory’s first (and subsequently last) world title final, despite having been one of the leading players through much of the 80s. And the Somerset player could – and probably should – have won the title, missing no less than six darts to the win championship (two for double 20, two for double 8 and another two for double 10).
Taylor later admitted that this was probably the greatest contest of his career, as he successfully landed a double top at the first opportunity to ensure that he secured his second world title – with many more heading his way in the following years.
6. Michael van Gerwen v Dyson Parody – 2016
While many of the greatest ever darts matches have occurred at the world’s elite events, sometimes local events can also throw up so monstrous ties, as was the case when Gibraltar wildcard Dyson Parody met world number one, Michael van Gerwen, on home soil at the 2016 Gibraltar Darts Trophy Quarter-Finals.
Indeed, even making the quarter-finals was a huge surprise for Parody, as he became the first Gibraltarian ever to not only reach the quarters of a European Tour event, but to beat an international opponent.
Parody was in his element in front of the home fans as he took on the world number one, with even his most ardent fans not expecting him to be able to get near Mighty Mike. However, Parody was determined to make the most of his opportunity and put on quite the exhibition for those in attendance.
Few had anticipated that Parody would win so much as a leg over van Gerwen, but Parody not only managed to do so in just the second leg, he even sailed into the lead – celebrating regularly with a strut towards the fans on each occasion. At one point, Parody was 5-3 up in legs in a first-to-six encounter and missed no less than three match darts for what could have been one of the greatest ever darts upsets.
In a nail-biting final leg, in which both players missed multiple match darts, van Gerwen, in the end, showed why he’s the best and put the Gibraltarian away. Nevertheless, Parody made himself the price of Gibraltar in the process.
7. James Wade v Mervyn King – 2014
A pair of shock 11-9 victories in each semi-final meant that James Wade and Mervyn King met a the 2014 Masters Final in Edinburgh, rather than the much more familiar Michael van Gerwen v Phil Taylor contests.
And it looked as if King was set to finally land his first PDC title, having stormed into a 5-0 lead. He subsequently turned this into a 9-2 and then 10-6 lead in the first-to-11 format, but James Wade had other ideas. The Aldershot player found his range and won the remaining five legs to produce an incredible turnaround to win 11-10 – winning his first major title since the 2011 UK Open in the process.
King missed a miraculous eight championship darts in the match. It really wasn’t his day.
8. Gary Anderson v Michael van Gerwen – 2014
It was the last 16 of the 2014 World Championships, and two of the sport’s finest went head-to-head, with final defeats still fresh in the memory of both, and neither yet to claim a world title.
Anderson went into a shock 3-1 lead and looked to cause an upset against the up-and-coming Belgian youngster. But Mighty Mike showed great composure to claim a 4-3 victory while averaging over 100 as he did so. Van Gerwen went on to claim the world title and hasn’t looked back since.
9. Adrian Lewis v James Wade – 2012
Adrian Lewis makes his second appearance on this list, with possibly one of the greatest ever comebacks known to the sport. He came up against James Wade in the semi-finals of the 2012 World Darts Championships, and The Machine looked to be easing his way into the showpiece match of the tournament.
Lewis, however, had different ideas. After going 2-0 down, things got worse for him following a break in play caused by a breeze making its way into the venue; he struggled to fight the player from Aldershot and was 5-1 down before he knew it. This proved to be the turning point for the then-26-year-old, as he took advantage of Wade’s missed double 18 at 5-2 and put together a five-set run with no response, before checking out on an impressive 161.
What a way to make the final.
10. Kevin Painter v Phil Taylor – 2004
Phil Taylor was involved in the first ever sudden death leg at the BDO World Championships in 1992 against Mike Gregory, and he was again when sudden death occurred for the first time at a PDC World Championship final in 2004 against Kevin Painter.
It was a remarkable match, with Kevin Painter storming into a 4-1 lead. But Taylor remained composed to pull it back and then recover from missing two shots at double five in sudden death, to land it at the third attempt with Painter on a checkout. Taylor then shocked the darts world by announcing his retirement from the sport, before changing his mind a few days later.