Peter Wright celebrated his first Premier televised ranking title in almost two years with a convincing 11-6 victory over James Wade in Sunday’s European Championship final, and in the process shortened his odds of lifting the big one in London in January.
'Snakebite', who also defeated Wade to clinch his maiden European Championship crown in 2020, repeated the feat in front of a record-breaking crowd in Dortmund to scoop the £120,000 top prize, and serve a timely reminder of his qualities as attentions turn towards the Grand Slam and the hotly-anticipated World Darts Championship.
The Scottish star has endured a tumultuous 2023 season, but after showing glimpses of a return to form over recent weeks, he capped off his revival with a memorable triumph at the Westfalenhalle - one that has seen his odds of capturing a third world title shorten to 10/1.
Wright had fought back from 4-1 down to deny German number one Gabriel Clemens in the opening round, before dispatching world number one Michael Smith 10-4 to seal his place at Finals Day.
The 53-year-old kicked off Sunday’s action with a dramatic 10-8 victory over Chris Dobey, producing monstrous 161 and 164 checkouts to beat the Masters champion, who remarkably recovered from 7-2 down to lead.
In the semi-finals, Wright reeled off six straight legs to overcome Danny Noppert, averaging 100.42 and defying four ton-plus finishes from the Dutchman to celebrate an 11-8 success.
The two-time World Champion then produced a professional display to topple a tenacious Wade, averaging 97, landing four 180s and pinning 46% of his attempts at a double.
“The old guy can still do it,” quipped Wright, who joins Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor and Rob Cross in becoming a multiple European Champion.
I was fortunate in my first game against Gabriel Clemens. I pulled out two 180s to get back in the match, but it was just brilliant to play in front of this amazing crowd this weekend.
“My throwing action went totally out the window in the last two matches. I didn’t know what I was doing, but luckily enough I got over the line.”
Wright was the early aggressor in Sunday’s decider, establishing a narrow 3-2 advantage at the first interval despite 157 and 96 checkouts from Wade.
Back-to-back 13-dart legs then catapulted Wright into a 6-2 cushion, and while Wade responded with consecutive legs, the Scot returned the favour to restore his four-leg buffer.
The two-time World Cup winner then fired in successive 14-darters to move to the cusp of glory at 10-5, only to squander three match darts in leg 16 as Wade sank a 13-darter on tops to prolong the contest.
However, 'Snakebite' quashed any fears of a famous fightback in the following leg, converting a clinical 96 checkout to clinch his third title of 2023, which sees him regain second spot on the PDC Order of Merit.
Wade, a European Champion in 2018, was appearing in his first televised ranking final since his UK Open triumph in March 2021, following a string of gutsy and spirited displays in Dortmund.
'The Machine', who saw off Dirk van Duijvenbode and Jose de Sousa earlier in the event, landed three ton-plus finishes to record a superb 10-6 victory over second seed in the last eight.
Wade - a 66/1 outsider for the World Darts Championship - then fought back brilliantly from 5-1 down to edge out Dutch youngster Gian van Veen in the semi-finals, running out an 11-9 winner to secure an instant return to the world’s top 16.
“I played a man who was better than me,” reflected Wade, who also confirmed his place at next month’s Grand Slam of Darts after scooping the £60,000 runner-up prize.
I’m gutted [with the result], but I’ve not been very good for the last 14 months, so this is a step in the right direction.
“I’ve been fortunate today because a few of the players didn’t play as well as they can, but for me this is a massive building block, and I’m moving forwards again.”
Earlier in the day, debutant Van Veen dumped out four-time champion, and the well-backed 7/2 World Darts Championship favourite Van Gerwen in the quarter-finals, punishing a below-par display from his compatriot to secure the biggest win of his career.
In the other quarter-final tie, Noppert produced a monumental fightback from 7-0 down to stun Gerwyn Price, to reign supreme at Alexandra palace, winning ten of the last 11 legs to prevail with a 101 average and seven maximums.