Three players are battling it out to avoid elimination from the Betway Premier League tonight, but only one will end Judgement Night in eighth place to survive.
Robert Thornton, Dave Chisnall and Michael Smith are all embroiled in a fight for survival when the Premier League visits the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff this evening.
Following his 7-5 win over Smith and a 6-6 draw with Michael van Gerwen last week in Liverpool, it is Thornton who holds all the aces heading into week nine.
The Scot had just one point to his name before last Thursday’s action at the Echo Arena, but was playing twice as he had a game in hand.
The win against Smith to kick-off the night was the perfect start for the Thorn, as he climbed above the Premier League debutant into ninth place and closer to safety.
A repeat of last year’s World Grand Prix final closed the night out, with Thornton once again proving to be, well, a thorn in the side of the world number one.
Thornton quite rightly said he would have snapped your arm off for three points from his two games and quite rightly so.
With van Gerwen posting incredible averages in the 120s and 110s in recent weeks, some feared the Thorn could be in for another whitewash defeat last week.
But MVG did not find that form, and to his credit, Thornton took full advantage to claim a deserved point against the league leader.
That unexpected point could prove to make all the difference in Cardiff tonight, as Thornton now has his Premier League fate in his own hands.
Even if Smith beats Phil Taylor and Chisnall overcomes Peter Wright this evening, Thornton knows he will avoid elimination by beating Adrian Lewis.
The Thorn may not even have to win in Cardiff though. If Smith and Chisnall both lose then Thornton will go up on stage knowing he will remain in the tournament at the end of Judgement Night.
The precedent therefore is firmly on the current bottom two of Chisnall and Smith. They need to get a result tonight or they will be going home.
Legs difference could play a part in determining which player finishes the night in eighth, and having tasted two whitewash defeats this season, Thornton’s -20 legs difference may be a factor.
Smith’s legs difference is slightly worse at -24, while Chisnall’s -12 shows how close most of his defeats have been.
Four of Chizzy’s six defeats in the Premier League this season have been by a 7-4 scoreline and another has been closer at 7-5.
Despite going into Judgement Night now in the bottom two for the first time this season, Chisnall will have the belief that he can put in a performance which will enable him to avoid elimination.
If he was getting thrashed 7-0, 7-1 or 7-2 every week then his survival hopes would be a lost cause, but Chizzy is only really looking to hit another gear next week to give him a chance of beating Wright.
Although Wright produced a good fight back to draw with Taylor last week, his persistent tinkering with his darts may lead to a below par performance in Cardiff on Thursday night.
We’ve seen it before when Snakebite somehow managed to sneak a win against Raymond van Barneveld, but if it happens tonight then the chance will be there for Chisnall to get a crucial win.
Smith will probably need to beat Taylor this evening if he is to stand a chance of avoiding elimination.
The race to avoid elimination
If momentum were the main factor, Thornton would be odds on favourite to avoid being eliminated tonight.
Last week the Scot climbed out of the bottom two for the first time this season as he picked up three points from games against Michael Smith and Michael van Gerwen.
After a disastrous start to the tournament, which saw him lose 7-0 to Dave Chisnall on the opening night in Leeds and then miss out playing in the second week through illness, Thornton has taken time to settle in and rediscover his best form.
The World Grand Prix holder looked dead and buried after losing 7-0 to Phil Taylor three weeks ago, but an improved performance in the defeat to James Wade a week later gave him renewed belief, which helped him to beat Smith and draw with MVG last week.
Verdict Fate is in own hands but may need to beat Adrian Lewis tonight to keep his place. 9th
Fixtures Tonight Adrian Lewis
After thrashing Robert Thornton 7-0 on the first night of this year’s Premier League to stand at the top of the table, few would have predicted Dave Chisnall to be embroiled in a battle to avoid elimination.
But that is the reality for last year’s semi-finalist, who since beating Thornton has drawn one and lost six of his next seven games and last week dropped into the bottom two for the first time this season.
Apart from a 7-2 thrashing at the hands of Michael van Gerwen in Nottingham though, all of Chizzy’s defeats have been close affairs. 7-4 losses to Adrian Lewis, James Wade, Gary Anderson and Raymond van Barneveld, as well as a 7-5 reverse to Phil Taylor will give him hope that he can possibly get the better of Peter Wright in Cardiff on Judgement Night.
Verdict Will fancy his chances of turning over Wright tonight to avoid elimination. 8th
Fixtures Tonight Peter Wright
Like Robert Thornton, Michael Smith has occupied a bottom two place for almost all of this year’s Premier League so far.
A slow start to his debut season in the competition could be what results in elimination for Bully Boy tonight, with the former world youth champion almost certainly needing to beat Phil Taylor to stand a chance of survival.
Smith had to play twice on his debut night in Leeds after Gary Anderson withdrew through illness, and after picking up three legs in total across the two games, any confidence he had from being selected for the Premier League looked to have quickly evaporated.
His current tournament average of 90.76 will need to be improved if he is to climb off the bottom on Judgement Night and keep his place for the rest of the season.
Verdict Has the toughest game out of the three and will need to pull off an upset to stay in. 10th
Fixtures Tonight Phil Taylor