Gutted Gary Anderson came within one leg of a glorious first PDC title on Sunday night when he lost 13-12 to Phil Taylor in a thrilling Players Championship final at Doncaster.
Taylor, the 15-time world champion, has endured a dip in form since claiming the European Championship title last summer, but bounced back from his quarter-final defeat to Mark Webster in the World Championship to win the £60,000 first prize in Doncaster.
Having come from 5-0 down to defeat Mervyn King 10-8 in an amazing semi-final, he backed that up with a resilient display to defeat Anderson - repeating last year’s UK Open triumph against the former Eyemouth man.
Taylor led 6-3 during the final before Anderson hit back to lead 11-9, only for the world No 1 to prevail in a decider by taking out a 128 checkout.
“I thought I might never win a title again after the World Championship but I’ve gone away, changed darts and worked really hard recently,” said Taylor.
“It means a massive amount to me to win this and the work has paid off for me.
‘‘Gary played brilliantly throughout the tournament and was great in the final, and I’m sure we’ll have plenty more battles.”
Taylor won the opening two legs with checkouts of 79 and 80 after the Scot missed doubles, only for Anderson to take out 121 on the bull to get off the mark.
Another 80 finish saw Taylor punish further Anderson misses before the World Championship runner-up finished an 11-darter to win the fifth leg, hitting a 180 for the first of four successive legs.
Taylor won the next two despite Anderson’s heavy scoring, before Anderson posted double four to pull back to 5-3.
A missed double top from Anderson allowed Taylor to take the ninth, but the Scot followed up double one to take the next by finishing a brilliant 141 for a 12-darter.
Taylor’s 86 finish put him 7-5 up, but he missed doubles in the next two as Anderson finished 90 and double top to level the game.
He then went on to lead after Taylor had taken the 15th, turning an 8-7 deficit into a 10-8 advantage by taking three legs in a row, following up an 82 finish with back-to-back 14-darters where he also added a pair of maximums.
Anderson then missed darts for a three-leg lead as Taylor hit double 19, before the Scot edged the next for an 11-9 cushion.
Taylor found another gear to win the next three, moving himself 12-11 up and within a leg of the title - only to miss double 16 for victory in the next as Anderson scrambled in double 19 at the sixth time of asking to force a deciding leg.
Taylor refused to buckle, and his scores of 140, 134 and 99 left 128, and he checked out the finish on double four.
After the match Anderson, who was appearing in his second successive major final, praised Taylor: “Full credit to Phil for his performance because he was the better man and deserved to win,
“I gave it my best shot but was shattered. To play three big games in a day is tough and I’ll need to get fitter, but I’m proud to have reached another big final and I’m going to do everything I can to turn the tables on Phil one day.”
Whilst Taylor had come through an incredible semi-final with King, Anderson also enjoyed a titanic struggle with newcomer Steve Farmer before claiming a 10-7 win.
Anderson led 4-0 before the Telford ace hit finishes of 126 and 148 in levelling at 6-6, only for the Scot to crucially win four of the final five legs and reach the final.
Anderson had also defeated Andy Smith earlier on Sunday with a 9-5 quarter-final win, while Taylor overcame Wes Newton 9-3 before his semi-final battle with King.
The £250,000 event was the first PDC major tournament to be shown online in its entirety, and featured the leading 32 players from the 2010 Players Championship Order of Merit competing over four days at the Doncaster Dome.