Scott Williams causes major upset as he eliminates Michael van Gerwen from the PDC world darts tournament.

The hurricane that blew the great Michael van Gerwen out of the world championship did not materialise in a single evening, or a single tournament, or a single year. Arguably these shocks are no longer even as shocking as they once were, back in the days when Van Gerwen was at his imperial peak and the pyramid of talent beneath him was far narrower. And so the story of Scott Williams’s famous triumph was really the story of modern darts in microcosm: a sport with no safe places, no certainties and no guarantees, no fealty to reputation and no respect for history.

At the moment of the greatest victory of his life, having played the match of his life, Williams walked calmly across the stage, savouring the cheers and the boos in equal measure. The world No 52 from Lincolnshire has always been a cussedly divisive presence among the darting public, a big snarling yapping dog of a player, whose entire persona is essentially based on a magnificent disrespect. Earlier in the tournament he celebrated a febrile win over Germany’s Martin Schindler by boasting about England having won “two world wars and one World Cup”, for which he later issued the world’s least sincere apology. Williams is basically the fishing emoji in human form.

And he really can play, even if little in his modest record this year suggested he was capable of playing like this, for these stakes. He won more legs than all of Van Gerwen’s previous opponents at this tournament combined, hit 12 180s, relished the battle rather than backing away from it, roared and bellowed, a man convinced that he was finally where he needed to be. “I’ve just knocked out the best player in the world,” he trilled afterwards. “I probably could have won it a little bit easier.”

Whether Williams threw Van Gerwen off his game, or whether Van Gerwen did it all himself, is now largely a moot point. All we can really say is that sometimes – and fairly often these days – Van Gerwen gets out of bed, walks out on stage and can’t hit a double to save his life. He missed his first 11 darts at the outer ring here, averaged just 29% on his doubles across the match, allied to a pitiful scoring display by his standards (average 93.4). By the end he was red in the face, burning up under the lights, another year’s hard toil slipping through his fingers.

This is a cruel and brutal sport, and on a seismic quarter-final day at the Palace nobody learned that lesson harder than Chris Dobey. The Masters champion became the first man ever to let slip a 4-0 lead in the 46-year history of the world championship, as a resurgent Rob Cross channelled the same nerveless audacity and thrumming momentum that took him to the title as an unfancied debutant in 2018.

The early promise portended by that shock victory has only partially been fulfilled in the years since, but the ambition and the energy has never left him, and nor has the sense of theatre. Time and again his third dart would bail him out of a trebleless visit. Time and again he pinned crucial doubles.

And as Dobey’s brashness began to evaporate, as the doubles began to go astray, as the gaze began to wander, Cross capitalised to spectacular effect, producing finishes of 117 and 130 and a 10-dart leg in the deciding set. “I’ve got nerves of steel,” he boasted. “I still believe, even when I’m 4-0 down. I’m never beaten, whoever I’m playing.”

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