Dimitri Van den Bergh 4-5 Rob Cross

(0-3, 2-3, 3-2, 2-3, 0-3, 3-0, 3-1, 3-1, 1-3)

ROB CROSS emerged from a titanic struggle with Dimitri Van den Bergh with a place in the William Hill World Darts Championship semi-finals after surviving an epic comeback with a 5-4 victory.

Such is the standard in darts these days that an Alexandra Palace debutant in his first year as a professional and the World Youth Champion served up as good a game as you’ll see in the World Championship.

There was just a point between them in the averages, with Van den Bergh slightly better at 98.6, while he hit 13 maximums to 11 from Cross, but stats only tell half the story as this one was all about colossal swings in momentum.

Cross took control and was cruising at 4-1 up only for the 23-year-old Belgian to come roaring back, winning nine of 11 legs with eight 180s and a 134 checkout to level at 4-4.

Van den Bergh made it a ninth leg out of 12 played at the start of the deciding set, which incredibly put him ahead in the match for the very first time after over an hour-and-a-half of play.

Despite watching such a lead fall apart, Cross somehow rebounded with a 180 followed by 81 checkout to get back on terms, before taking out 89 in the next after Van den Bergh had missed three doubles.

Van den Bergh bagged a 180 in the fourth leg, but as nerves frayed the Belgian missed five doubles, while Cross missed two match darts before returning and eventually hitting double one for victory.

“Honestly, the best player lost,” said Cross, who now plays Michael van Gerwen or Raymond van Barneveld. “This man hit me with everything – and what a lovely fella he is as well.

“He’s brilliant, he’s going to be special. I just wasn’t right, for whatever reason and Dimitri kept punishing me – fair play to him, he was brilliant.

“I don’t know what happened but I just felt lethargic and I went inside myself and it wasn’t good enough. I’m happy to win, but it’s got to get better tomorrow.”

Van den Bergh earned as much credit in defeat as Cross did in victory, and with that sort of fighting spirit he will have a huge future in the sport.

“I went 4-1 down but I kept telling myself, and so did my father, keep your chin up, keep battling, it’s not over until the fifth set is won,” said Van den Bergh.

“So I just thought I’d enjoy it and keep battling but it wasn’t to be this time. But I hope this guy can go all the way – I love Rob to bits.

“My ambition is to continue doing what I’m doing and climb up the rankings.”

Cross insists that regardless of which Dutch superpower he is up against in the semi-finals, he has the game to challenge if he can play his best.

“It doesn’t matter who I play,” he added. “If I play my game the way I usually do, then I’ve got a chance.”