A resurgent Stephen Bunting continued his excellent recent form, reaching the semi-final of the 2021 Boyle Sports World Grand Prix.
Once again, it was heartbreak for the Liverpudlian as world number one, Gerywn Price prevented him reaching a maiden PDC major television final.
Back in December, the Bullet was agonisingly close to a place in the World Championship final. He had Price on the canvas, only to see the Welshman get up and deliver a knockout blow.
On this occasion, taking full advantage of an under par Iceman, Bunting raced into an early 2-0 lead. Despite receiving a torrent of boos, Price managed to regain his composure and stage an magnificent comeback and remain on course to defend his World Matchplay crown.
However, Bunting can take away some huge positives from what was another highly successful campaign.
An excellent opening round display saw him comfortably fend off the challenge of former Grand Prix champion, Daryl Gurney – throwing in a champagne 132 finish; bull, bull, D16 for good measure.
Then in round two, Bunting was faced with a man who had won this title on two previous occasions, James Wade. But another solid display and composure under pressure won the day and a quarter-final showdown with the impressive Ryan Searle.
There might be a huge difference in darts weights between the pair, but in talent, both are very evenly matched. The former Lakeside World Champion knew he would have to perform well to advance.
But perform well he did. And without either player really hitting their top form, it was Bunting who used that extra big stage experience and fought back from a set down to get the job done.
However, it was always going to be a tough task against Gerwyn Price. And so it eventually proved to be.
Upon reflection Bunting will take the positives from the weekâ€™s achievement as well as the crucial ranking points to remain firmly in the worldâ€™s top 16.
Afterwards, a disappointed but proud Bunting said: â€œAt 2-0 up, I felt sorry for Gezzy [Price]. I know I shouldnâ€™t, just couldnâ€™t help it as he was getting a lot of stick from the crowd. Itâ€™s a mistake I wonâ€™t be making again!
â€œBut no excuses, I should have done better from the position I was in. All credit to Gezzy, he is a world class player and proved it.
â€œIâ€™ll wake up in the morning and probably feel different. Proud of how well I did and what I achieved. Itâ€™s another major semi-final and I will build on that now.
â€œMy game is as good as itâ€™s been for a long time now, I feel confident and believe that PDC major isnâ€™t too far away.
â€œI would like to take this opportunity to thank my sponsors, family and friends for all their magnificent support this week. Itâ€™s very much appreciated.
â€œWishing both Gezzy and Jonny [Clayton] the best for the final. I will now keep on the practice board and looking forward to the rest of the year. Confident I can use this tournament as a catalyst to do even better in the upcoming events.â€
Warning shots indeed fired to the rest of the field. Look out …. Stephen Bunting is back to his best and means business.