Alan Norris became the first man to reach the UK Open semi-finals, edging out Kim Huybrechts 10-9 in a tight encounter.
Huybrechts, one of only three Premier League players left in the tournament, was off the pace in leg one, with Norris settling early and holding throw with a three-dart 74 checkout. Norris missed tops to break in the second leg but came back to clean up on double 10, with the Belgian missing double 19 for a 118 checkout. ‘Chuck’ missed two darts to go 3-0 up and the Hurricane returned to break straight back and halve the deficit.
It was soon 2-2, with the Englishman missing tops for a 151 and Huybrechts taking out a clinical two-dart 68 kill. But it was Norris who led going into the break, smashing a 160 checkout, a sickening blow for the Belgian, who had missed double 14 for a 121 finish of his own.
Huybrechts held throw under pressure to level the encounter before Norris did the same, maintaining his one leg lead. Both held once more before double trouble struck, ‘Chuck’ missing numerous darts to break before the Belgian finally put the leg to bed and sent the encounter into the second break all square at 5-5.
Norris moved into a 7-5 lead when the players returned, holding his throw before cleaning up 25 after missing the bull for a 170. The pair then exchanged breaks, as the Hurricane roared back with a 130 before Norris broke the Belgian with a clean two-dart 90 checkout.
Consecutive legs for Huybrechts levelled the encounter at 8-8 and set up a grandstand finish and another break from the Belgian saw him take the lead for the first time. He missed double 16 for the match though and Norris returned to take out double 20 to send the match into a last leg shoot-out.
Six perfect darts from Norris appeared to set him up perfectly to win the match but a loose visit saw him not get a shot at an 86 checkout, allowing Huybrechts the chance to steal. But he couldn’t take it, missing the bull for the match and leaving Norris to return and take out 60 for a place in the semi-finals.
Norris will fancy his chances this evening, as he plays in his first major PDC semi-final. The absence of Michael van Gerwen with a back injury, Phil Taylor, who didn’t qualify, and Gary Anderson, who lost to Paul Hogan in round three, has made it one of the most open finals days in recent PDC memory and has left each player knowing it may well be their best chance to win a major title.
The draw for the semi-finals will take place this afternoon, after Raymond van Barneveld places Peter Wright in the pick of Sunday’s quarter-final ties.