ROBERT THORNTON came out victorious in Saturday's Players Championship 7 after defeating 21-year-old Keegan Brown in a dramatic deciding leg at the Robin Park Tennis Centre in Wigan.
The Scot started his run to a second title of the year - both in Wigan - with a 6-4 win over Wales’ Kevin Thomas before dismissing three-time World Champion John Part by a 6-2 margin in the second round.
Thornton then passed the test of David Ladley in the last 32 with a 6-3 win before overcoming the challenge of seven-time major winner James Wade 6-1 margin, with the aid of a 103 average.
The 2012 UK Open champion then edged past Kim Huybrechts in a deciding leg in the quarter-finals, before defeating fellow Scot Gary Anderson with a 6-3 win to reach his sixth final since last October.
Thornton fell 2-0 down to his young opponent before claiming three of the next four legs in a run which included superb legs of ten and 12 darts as he levelled at three apiece.
Thornton fell behind once again by dropping the seventh leg before hitting back with a 13-dart finish to level, which he followed with an 11-darter in the ninth to move a leg away from victory at 5-4.
Brown kept up the fight by converting an 86 finish to force a decider, but was left to rue four missed chances to claim the £10,000 first prize in the final leg as Thornton posted double four at the first time of asking for victory.
Emerging talent Brown, whose previous best run in a ProTour event was a semi-final appearance in Crawley two years ago, won his opening two matches by 6-4 margins against Andy Pearce and Jamie Caven before narrowly defeating Jamie Lewis to reach the last 16.
There, he defeated Spain’s Antonio Alcinas 6-3 before romping past another new face at ProTour level, Dorset's Ben Ward, 6-1 with an incredible 112.32 average – capped-off with a ten-dart finish.
Brown came from 5-4 down to win a dramatic semi-final against World Championship finalist Peter Wright, after the colourful Scot had missed chances to wrap up victory in the tenth leg.
In his first ever ProTour final, the 21-year-old from the Isle of Wight - who has won through to the PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship final on May 22 - started confidently to take the first two legs with finishes of 66 and 80.
Thornton found his stride to win the three of the next four legs to level before Brown landed double nine in the seventh leg to regain the lead - but he was later made to pay for missing his chances to snatch victory in the decider.
Anderson - who is still in with a strong shout of competing in the Betway Premier League Play-Offs at The O2 in London - continued his excellent form this year as he reached the semi-finals on Saturday.
The new father defeated former World Champions Mark Webster and Jelle Klaasen during his smooth progress to the last four before his hopes of a fifth title in as many months were ended after a 6-3 loss to Thornton.
Wright reached his third ProTour semi-final of 2014 in a run which included back-to-back 6-5 wins over Adrian Lewis and Ronnie Baxter, only to suffer a taste of his own medicine with a deciding leg defeat to Brown, having missed chances to close out the match in the tenth leg.
Belgium’s Kim Huybrechts and 53-year-old Ronnie Baxter reached the quarter-finals, while former Lakeside Champion Klaasen reached the last eight on Saturday, backing up his semi-final appearance in February’s PDC German Darts Championship.
Dorset's Ben Ward, a two-time winner on the PDC Unicorn Challenge Tour last year as he earned a PDC Tour Card, enjoyed an excellent day by reaching the last eight and recording his best ever performance on the senior circuit.
Swindon’s Johnny Haines matched his best result in a ProTour event for over a year after producing a fine run to the last 16, which included a brilliant 6-2 second victory over five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld.
Spain’s Alcinas enjoyed his best result in a PDC competition for over a year following an excellent run to the last 16 stage on Saturday.
Alcinas, who teamed with Carlos Rodriguez to reach the semi-finals of the 2010 PDC World Cup of Darts, defeated Nigel Heydon, Mark Barilli and Manchester’s Stuart Kellett, before falling to the inspired Brown.
Players Championship 7
Robin Park Tennis Centre, Wigan
Gary Anderson (1) 6-4 Joey Ten Berge
Joey Paflreyman 6-4 Andy Parsons
Benito van de Pas 6-5 Andrew Gilding (32)
Mark Webster 6-4 Magnus Caris
Steve Maish 6-5 Kevin Painter (16)
William O'Connor 6-3 Pete Dyos
Michael Smith (17) 6-5 Colin Osborne
Adam Hunt 6-2 Joe Cullen
Ian White (8) 6-1 Rowby-John Rodriguez
Marc Dewsbury 6-1 Gary Stone
Jelle Klaasen (25) 6-3 Darren Whittingham
Zoran Lerchbacher 6-3 Tomas Seyler
Mervyn King (9) 6-3 Mark Dudbridge
Ricky Evans 6-4 Ricky Sudale
John Bowles 6-1 Dean Winstanley (24)
Chris Aubrey 6-1 Christian Kist
Robert Thornton (5) 6-4 Kevin Thomas
John Part 6-3 Conan Whitehead
Michael Barnard 6-5 Wayne Jones (28)
David Ladley 6-2 Darron Brown
Simon Whitlock (12) 6-4 Campbell Jackson
Steve Hine 6-4 John Henderson
James Wade (21) 6-5 Matt Padgett
Mick Todd 6-3 Arron Monk
Kim Huybrechts (4) 6-2 Daryl Gurney
Ron Meulenkamp 6-5 Peter Hudson
Terry Jenkins (29) 6-1 Ian Moss
James Hubbard 6-2 Paul Amos
Justin Pipe (13) 6-3 Jim Walker
Scott Mackenzie 6-0 Dan Russell
Kyle Anderson 6-3 Paul Nicholson (23)
Dennis Smith 6-5 Mark Walsh
Brendan Dolan (2) 6-2 John Newland
Jeff Batham 6-5 Ronny Huybrechts
Richie Burnett (31) 6-4 Wayne Pepper
Ben Ward 6-4 Steve West
Kevin Voornhout 6-5 Wes Newton (15)
Ryan De Vreede 6-1 Colin Lloyd
Raymond van Barneveld (18) 6-0 Darren Johnson
Johnny Haines 6-3 Connie Finnan
Mark Barilli 6-5 Steve Beaton (7)
Antonio Alcinas 6-4 Nigel Heydon
Stuart Kellett (26) 6-3 Denis Ovens
Terry Temple 6-2 Matt Clark
Jamie Caven (10) 6-2 Ryan Palmer
Keegan Brown 6-4 Andy Pearce
Jamie Lewis (23) 6-4 Josh Payne
Ross Smith 6-5 Mareno Michels
Peter Wright (6) 6-0 Kevin Dowling
Kirk Shepherd 6-0 Mark Cox
Andy Smith (27) 6-2 Robert Owen
Glenn Spearing 6-5 Ting Chi Royden Lam
Adrian Lewis (11) 6-1 Steve Brown
Gerwyn Price 6-1 Steve Grubb
Vincent van der Voort (22) 6-2 Tony Newell
Joe Murnan 6-5 Michael Mansell
Dave Chisnall (3) 6-3 Stuart White
Scott Rand 6-2 Brett Claydon
Darren Webster (30) 6-2 Kevin McDine
Kurt Parry 6-3 Dave Bird
David Dodds 6-3 Andy Hamilton (14)
Andy Jenkins 6-2 Stephen Bunting
Ronnie Baxter (19) 6-3 David Pallett
James Richardson 6-4 Jason Lovett
Gary Anderson 6-1 Joey Palfreyman
Mark Webster 6-4 Benito van de Pas
Steve Maish 6-5 William O'Connor
Michael Smith 6-3 Adam Hunt
Ian White 6-4 Marc Dewsbury
Jelle Klaasen 6-4 Zoran Lerchbacher
Mervyn King 6-4 Ricky Evans
John Bowles 6-1 Chris Aubrey
Robert Thornton 6-2 John Part
David Ladley 6-3 Michael Barnard
Simon Whitlock 6-2 Steve Hine
James Wade 6-0 Mick Todd
Kim Huybrechts 6-3 Ron Meulenkamp
James Hubbard 6-5 Terry Jenkins
Justin Pipe 6-2 Scott Mackenzie
Dennis Smith 6-2 Kyle Anderson
Jeff Batham 6-3 Brendan Dolan
Ben Ward 6-4 Richie Burnett
Ryan De Vreede 6-5 Kevin Voornhout
Johnny Haines 6-2 Raymond van Barneveld
Antonio Alcinas 6-3 Mark Barilli
Stuart Kellett 6-0 Terry Temple
Keegan Brown 6-4 Jamie Caven
Jamie Lewis 6-2 Ross Smith
Peter Wright 6-3 Kirk Shepherd
Andy Smith 6-1 Glenn Spearing
Adrian Lewis 6-4 Gerwyn Price
Vincent van der Voort 6-5 Joe Murnan
Scott Rand 6-1 Dave Chisnall
Darren Webster 6-5 Kurt Parry
David Dodds 6-4 Andy Jenkins
Ronnie Baxter 6-2 James Richardson
Gary Anderson 6-1 Mark Webster
Michael Smith 6-2 Steve Maish
Jelle Klaasen 6-4 Ian White
Mervyn King 6-2 John Bowles
Robert Thornton 6-3 David Ladley
James Wade 6-3 Simon Whitock
Kim Huybrechts 6-3 James Hubbard
Justin Pipe 6-1 Dennis Smith
Ben Ward 6-3 Jeff Batham
Johnny Haines 6-3 Ryan De Vreede
Antonio Alcinas 6-4 Stuart Kellett
Keegan Brown 6-5 Jamie Lewis
Peter Wright 6-2 Andy Smith
Adrian Lewis 6-4 Vincent van der Voort
Darren Webster 6-5 Scott Rand
Ronnie Baxter 6-1 David Dodds
Gary Anderson 6-5 Michael Smith
Jelle Klaasen 6-1 Mervyn King
Robert Thornton 6-1 James Wade
Kim Huybrechts 6-5 Justin Pipe
Ben Ward 6-3 Johnny Haines
Keegan Brown 6-3 Antonio Alcinas
Peter Wright 6-5 Adrian Lewis
Ronnie Baxter 6-4 Darren Webster
Gary Anderson 6-1 Jelle Klaasen
Robert Thornton 6-5 Kim Huybrechts
Keegan Brown 6-1 Ben Ward
Peter Wright 6-5 Ronnie Baxter
Robert Thornton 6-3 Gary Anderson
Keegan Brown 6-5 Peter Wright
Robert Thornton 6-5 Keegan Brown