Glen Durrant exits the Grand Slam of Darts after Simon Whitlock beats Gerwyn Price
12 November 2018, 18:03 | Updated: 13 November 2018, 06:14
Glen Durrant was dumped out of the Grand Slam of Darts on a dramatic night in Wolverhampton, as Peter Wright, Simon Whitlock and Mensur Suljovic all advanced to the knockout stages.
Durrant knew that victory would be sufficient to seal his place in the knockout stages for the third consecutive year, but the 48-year-old joined fellow BDO stars Mark McGeeney, Scott Mitchell and Jim Williams in exiting the tournament.
It was a marathon night of action in Wolverhampton with five of the eight matches going to deciding legs, as two players squeezed through despite only winning one of their three group games.
However, the big story of the evening saw reigning Lakeside champion Durrant knocked out in the group stages for the first time after an incredible sequence of events in Group F.
Durrant was edged out in a dramatic last-leg shootout by Andrew Gilding, having fought back from 4-1 down to force a decider, as Gilding defied a 104.98 average from Durrant to prevail.
The pair exchanged holds of throw early on, before Durrant missed a golden opportunity to break, having been presented with three darts at tops- only for the second dart to land in single one.
Gilding then reeled off three straight legs to move 4-1 ahead, including a spectacular 11-darter in the fifth, but 'Duzza' responded superbly.
The reigning Lakeside champion fired in 13 and 14-dart legs to reduce the arrears to 4-3, before converting a clinical 81 kill on tops to send the contest all the way.
However, Gilding had the advantage of throw in the decider and posted visits of 140, 140 and 170 to leave 51 after 9 darts, before eventually pinning D8 with his seventh match dart.
Durrant was then left relying on Gerwyn Price to beat Simon Whitlock and 'The Iceman' made an electrifying start.
Whitlock produced a sensational 170 checkout in the second leg, but finishes of 78, 130, 113 and 79 from the Welshman saw him establish a 4-1 cushion with an incredible 119 average.
However, 'The Wizard' conjured up some magic to triumph in one of the greatest games ever seen at the Grand Slam.
He landed a 10-darter in the sixth leg, before taking out a skin-saving 65 kill after Price had spurned one match dart at D19.
Incredibly, the Australian landed his second 170 finish of the contest to force a decider, before capitalising on three more missed match darts from Price to triumph with a 108.86 average.
Peter Wright sealed top spot in Group E after edging out Josh Payne in a topsy-turvy nine leg contest.
'Snakebite' struggled throughout but made it three wins from three, as Payne also advanced to the last 16, after Jim Williams produced an exhibition of finishing to defeat Max Hopp.
The Welshman became the latest BDO representative to exit the tournament, but he bowed out in style; averaging 101.60 and converting 83 per cent of his attempts at double in a high-quality display.
Hopp led three times in a nip and tuck affair, but Williams took out finishes of 117, 83 and 74, before registering a majestic 10-dart leg to send it all the way.
The German posted three maximums in the contest, but when it mattered most the trebles evaded him, as Williams converted a nerveless two-dart 72 combination to claim his first Grand Slam win.
That meant Payne needed just three legs against Snakebite to qualify, and he made the perfect start- opening up a 2-0 advantage with the Scot averaging in the 70's.
Payne squandered four darts for a 3-0 lead as Wright levelled at two apiece, before 'The Maximum' sank D5 to seal his qualification.
Wright responded with a 12-darter before Payne regained the lead, but the 24-year-old struggled in the latter stages, which enabled the Scot to set up a last 16 showdown against Simon Whitlock.
Stephen Bunting continued his fine form to top Group G, defeating Scott Mitchell 5-1 in a battle of the former Lakeside champions.
'The Bullet' only needed to win four legs to qualify, but he breezed to victory over an out-of-sorts Mitchell, who misses out on qualification for the fourth consecutive year.
Bunting established an early 3-0 advantage, before Mitchell opened his account with a 13-dart hold.
However, Mitchell squandered eight of his nine darts at a double, whilst Bunting boasted a 50% checkout conversion rate, which saw the St Helen's star maintain his 100 per cent record in the group.
Bunting's win saw Mensur Suljovic progress in second spot, although the Austrian suffered a surprise 5-4 defeat to Martin Schindler, who bowed out of Wolverhampton in style.
Suljovic led 3-1, but Schindler reeled off three consecutive legs to seize the initiative; following up a scrappy hold of throw with legs of 13 and 14 darts.
'The Wall' then squandered three match darts as Suljovic levelled to force a decider, but Schindler made amends in style; converting a nerveless 102 checkout on double 11 to snatch victory.
Dimitri Van den Bergh set up a last 16 showdown against Bunting after easing past BDO number two Mark McGeeney in the final match of Monday's session.
It was a straight shootout between 'The Dream-Maker' and McGeeney for a place in the last 16, but the Belgian reeled off five consecutive legs to record an emphatic 5-1 victory.
'The Gladiator' drew first blood with a tidy 13-dart hold, but Van den Bergh won five legs on the spin in 17, 14, 17, 14 and 15 darts to triumph with a 98.90 average and reach the second-round in Wolverhampton for the first time in his career.
The other Group H tussle saw world champion Rob Cross make it three wins from three with a convincing 5-2 win over Ryan Searle in the evening's curtain-raiser.
'Voltage' was the only player assured of qualification prior to Monday's action and he produced an impressive display to defeat Searle; averaging 98.70 and converting 50% of his attempts at double.
Cross stormed into a 3-0 lead, but Searle registered successive 15-dart holds, including a 70 checkout on the bull to reduce the arrears to 4-2, only for Cross to close out the win on double 16.
Groups A-D will reach their conclusion on Tuesday night before the knockout stages get underway with Wednesday and Thursday's second round when the matches are the first to 10 legs.
The Grand Slam of Darts continues on Sky Sports across the week with the group stages reaching their conclusion on Tuesday, with the action getting underway on Sky Sports Action from 7pm.
Keep up to date with the news as the tungsten enters its busiest time of year with the PDC World Championships just around the corner get all the latest at www.skysports.com/darts and join in the conversation @SkySportsDarts.