PHIL TAYLOR came back from the brink of defeat for a third successive game to keep alive his Ladbrokes.com PDC World Darts Championship hopes with a tie-break defeat of Alan Tabern.

The 13-time World Champion has been pushed to a final set in his opening two matches at Alexandra Palace, against Michael van Gerwen and Mark Walsh, and again rode his luck against the world number 18.

Tabern led 2-1 and 3-2 before moving to the brink of victory, before seeing Taylor take four of the final five legs in the deciding set to move into the quarter-finals.

“If I go on to win this it will be the hardest World Championship I’ve ever had,” said Taylor.

“Alan’s a very good pressure player but I’m still in and I’ll get back on the practice board on Friday and get ready for the next game.

“I’m getting better with every round and a little bit more confident in my ability as well.”

Taylor will take on Wayne Mardle in the quarter-finals, following the flamboyant Essex star’s comeback from 3-2 down to win in a final set against Roland Scholten.

Mardle pushed Taylor all the way in the semi-finals two years ago before losing 6-5, and he said: “I’ve got to straighten up my throwing but I can beat anyone when I play decently.

“I’ve played Phil so many times though and lost and he makes you think about the game.”

The third round will continue on Friday, with defending champion Raymond van Barneveld taking on Kevin Painter in a high-profile contest.

The Dutchman had been laid low with a bout of ‘flu over Christmas, but defeated Jason Clark 4-1.

Alex Roy set up a meeting with two-time World Champion John Part with an impressive 4-1 demolition of number six seed Andy Hamilton.

Mark Dudbridge edged past Ronnie Baxter 4-2 to earn a clash with world number three James Wade, while Tony Eccles’ reward for an amazing comeback against Steve Maish is a date with Adrian Lewis.

Eccles admitted he was preparing for defeat when he trailed 3-0 against Maish, but came back from the brink to take a 4-3 win.

Dutch qualifier Jan van der Rassel will attempt to take out a third seeded player when he meets Peter Manley, while youngster Kirk Shepherd faces Barrie Bates.

Ladbrokes.com PDC World Darts Championship
Thursday 27 December 2007
Second Round
Steve Maish 3-4 Tony Eccles
Andy Hamilton 1-4 Alex Roy
Ronnie Baxter 2-4 Mark Dudbridge
Raymond van Barneveld 4-1 Jason Clark

Third Round
Phil Taylor 4-3 Alan Tabern
Roland Scholten 3-4 Wayne Mardle

Friday 28 December 2007 (Third Round)
1pm: Kirk Shepherd v Barrie Bates
2.20pm: Adrian Lewis v Tony Eccles
3.40pm: James Wade v Mark Dudbridge
7pm: Peter Manley v Jan van der Rassel
8.20pm: Raymond van Barneveld v Kevin Painter
9.40pm: Alex Roy v John Part

RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD 4-1 JASON CLARK
(3-2, 3-2, 3-0, 2-3, 3-1)

DEFENDING Ladbrokes.com PDC World Darts Champion Raymond van Barneveld defied a bout of ‘flu to reach the third round of this year’s competition with a 4-1 victory over Jason Clark at Alexandra Palace.

The Dutchman has struggled over the Christmas period and spent much of his return to Holland, following a first round win over Anthony Forde, laid up in bed.

However, he managed to withstand the challenge of Clark, who was also battling illness, to book a last 16 date with Kevin Painter on Friday.

“You do everything you can to prepare properly for months leading up to the World Championship and then get the ‘flu and it was hard,” he admitted.

“I was in bed and there was no Christmas for me, but I hope to get better every day now and improve my performances.”

The scoreline did not truly reflect the story of the match, with the opening two sets going to a deciding leg.

Clark had two darts at double top to take the first set, but failed to take his chance and Barneveld landed tops to take the lead.

Van Barneveld broke the throw at the start of the second set, but Clark came back with a fantastic 11-dart finish.

The Dutchman regained the lead before Clark hit back with an 96 finish, only for van Barneveld to double his advantage in the decider.

The reigning champion began to show some form in the third set, hitting two-dart checkouts of 92 and 96 in extending his advantage to 3-0.

Barneveld broke throw immediately at the beginning of the fourth set and appeared to be coasting towards victory, but Clark levelled up, breaking back to win his first leg in five.

Clark then took the next leg to lead, but van Barneveld hit a 63 checkout in the fourth leg.

He then had an opportunity of a 170 checkout but missed the bullseye, and missed five further darts for the match before Clark stepped in on double 16 to stay alive

The opening two legs of the fifth set where shared, but van Barneveld stepped up a gear, and romped to the finishing line, hitting three maximums in two legs and sealing victory with an 11-dart finish.

“I was 3-0 up but got a bit lucky in the first two sets,” added the Dutchman. “I’m pleased to get through and it’s a different day against Kevin.

“He’s playing well and that’s good to see. I’m really focused and I’ll have to fight for my life against him.”

PHIL TAYLOR 4-3 ALAN TABERN
(3-1, 2-3, 0-3, 3-0, 2-3, 3-2, 6-4)

PHIL TAYLOR came back from the brink of defeat for a third successive game to keep alive his Ladbrokes.com PDC World Darts Championship hopes with a tie-break defeat of Alan Tabern.

The 13-time World Champion has been pushed to a final set in his opening two matches at Alexandra Palace, against Michael van Gerwen and Mark Walsh, and again rode his luck against the world number 18.

Tabern led 2-1 and 3-2 before moving to the brink of victory, before seeing Taylor take four of the final five legs in the deciding set to move into the quarter-finals.

“If I go on to win this it will be the hardest World Championship I’ve ever had,” said Taylor. “I used to cruise through games but the players are class now.

“I’ve had so many years doing this now and I had to draw on that experience at the end.”

Taylor started the match well, hitting a 107 finish and a 12-darter in taking the first set 3-1.

Tabern hit back to the second set, despite Taylor having four opportunities to double his advantage.

The St Helens man then took the lead in the match, taking the third set without reply in legs of 17, 14 and 15 darts.

But Taylor hit back quickly, taking the fourth set in the same manner to level at 2-2, including a fabulous 137 checkout to win the set with Tabern waiting on 36 after nine darts.

The fifth set proved to be a replay of the second, with Taylor missing two darts to take it in the deciding leg, allowing Tabern to capitalise on double ten to take a 3-2 lead.

Taylor took an early advantage in the sixth set, taking a 2-0 lead, but Tabern hit back with a 12-dart finish and then landed double ten to level up.

The Stoke man had advantage of throw in the deciding leg, but had to produce a fantastic 171 to leave 16, which he converted, to take the contest to a decider after Tabern set up a 116 finish for victory.

Tabern led the final set 2-1, but Taylor hit a clinical 13-darter to level before the next four legs where shared, Tabern hitting a superb 160 checkout in the fifth leg and a clinical 13-darter leg in the seventh.

But the ninth proved to be vital leg of the match when Taylor broke Tabern’s throw, and then landed back-to-back maximums in the tenth leg to record a memorable win.

“The guy is class,” praised Tabern. “The players who have been playing him have been playing well and he’s still beating them.

“If he can win throwing bad then that’s half the battle of being a good dart player.

“I missed a few doubles in the first set but he gave me a few chances and I started to get belief when I took them.

“Once I had that I began to play my own game and it was like a war up there.

“Usually I don’t feel pressure but I think it got in my head a little bit. There’s a lot more to going up there and beating Phil than in a practice room; you’re not just playing Phil but also the crowd at times, and also his enigma.

“You can play your own game in the practice room or at home and beat anyone in the world but when you get up there with the cameras, the lights and the crowd it’s different.

“I don’t take any solace in the fact that I lost but I made a good account of myself and gave it my best shot.”

Taylor added: “Alan’s a very good pressure player and when I missed the double eight to win the second set it seemed to play on my mind a little bit.

“But I’m still in and I’ll get back on the practice board on Friday and get ready for the next game.

“I’m getting better with every round and a little bit more confident in my ability as well.

“I don’t care about what’s gone on – it’s the next game I’m worried about now.”

WAYNE MARDLE 4-3 ROLAND SCHOLTEN
(3-0, 0-3, 2-3, 3-1, 1-3, 3-2, 3-1)

WAYNE MARDLE won a final-set thriller to earn a place in the quarter-finals of the Ladbrokes.com PDC World Darts Championship at the expense of Roland Scholten.

The Dutchman established a 3-2 lead, but Mardle managed to come through by winning the final two sets to set up a mouth-watering clash against Phil Taylor on Saturday.

The match will be a repeat of the dramatic semi-final the two played, back in 2006, when Taylor came through in the deciding set.

Mardle started well, taking the first set without reply and landing a 110 checkout among legs of 15, 15 and 14 darts.

Scholten quickly hit back to take the second set without reply.

He had an opportunity of a nine-dart finish in the second leg, but missed treble 15 after landing seven perfect darts, and then wrapped up the set with a superb 140 checkout.

Scholten opened up a 2-0 advantage in the third set, making it five legs in a row before Mardle came back to level and take the set to a fifth leg.

However, the Dutchman held throw to take the set, for a 2-1 lead, hitting a two dart 60 finish, with his opponent waiting on 28.

Both players missed a number of doubles in the fourth set, but it was Mardle who managed to take it 3-1 to level the game.

Scholten regained the lead for the second time in the match hitting checkouts of 76, 60, and 66, to go one set away from victory.

The opening four legs of the sixth set where shared, leaving Scholten one away from victory.

But Mardle took advantage of throwing first, holding his nerve to hit a 68 checkout, with Scholten waiting on an 80 finish, for the match.

Scholten started the deciding set well, completing the first leg in 11 darts.

The Romford man held throw to take the next leg with a 56 finish and then managed a vital break of throw in the third leg, landing double six for a 2-1 lead.

Scholten had an opportunity to break back, but missed a dart at double 16 for a 102 finish, and Mardle took out a superb two-dart 74 checkout to record victory.

“Roland scored more consistently than me but I took my chances when it mattered,” said Mardle.

“I’ve got to straighten up my throwing but I can beat anyone when I play decently.”

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