TAYLOR & ANDERSON SEAL BETWAY PREMIER LEAGUE PLAY-OFF PLACES
Taylor completed his brilliant revival after losing four of his opening five games as he defeated Thornton 7-5 to seal third place in the final Premier League Darts table.
As had been his custom during the season, Taylor once again made life tough for himself as he missed his chances to wrap up a more comfortable win, before hitting double eight to seal his place in next week^s Play-Offs.
The six-time Premier League Darts champion will travel to The O2 on the back of an 11-game unbeaten run, as he prepares to face rival Raymond van Barneveld in the semi-finals for a second successive year.
"I^m absolutely over the moon," said Taylor. "Everybody wrote me off at the start of the season and they had every right to, because I was struggling - but I knew I^d come good in the end.
"I^ve got a great chance of winning this title now but I^ve got to get myself ready for the semi-finals now because it^s a big night next week.
"This is the best Premier League I^ve ever played in and I^ve loved it, even when I was losing. It was a matter of rebuilding and getting myself back on track, but I^ve done what I needed to to get into the Play-Offs."
Anderson, the 2011 Premier League Darts winner, will also challenge to lift the trophy following his 7-4 victory over van Barneveld, a six-time semi-finalist who had already secured his place in the top four.
Anderson had trailed 2-1 early on but won five successive legs on his way to victory, with checkouts of 100 and 124 in successive legs helping to turn the game in his favour.
"It^s nice to get that over and done with to be honest," admitted a relieved Anderson. "My scoring was great but my finishing in the first few legs was terrible, and I was still thinking about what I needed to do.
"The 124 was a big shot and it made a difference, and I came good in the end. I^ve gone seven games undefeated now and that^s great going into the Play-Offs."
Those wins denied Peter Wright the chance to snatch a Play-Off spot, as the World Championship finalist ended the season in fifth place after he went down 7-5 to Michael van Gerwen, despite a 161 checkout bringing the sell-out Brighton crowd to its feet.
Van Gerwen signalled his intent to retain the title ahead of his semi-final against Anderson by posting the highest average of the league phase with a superb 110.85 in a performance which included three 11-dart finishes.
"I^m very proud to have finished at the top of the table for the second successive year and that shows that I^ve been the best player over 15 weeks - but I still have to perform in the semi-finals and final," admitted van Gerwen.
"Last year I finished top of the league and then won the trophy and that^s what I want to do in the Play-Offs. I^m feeling good and my form^s great, as I showed with this win tonight, so I want to carry that on next week."
Two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis ended the season on a high with a second successive victory as he defeated Dave Chisnall 7-4 in Brighton, but he remained in sixth place in the final league table.
"It was a difficult game for both of us because there was nothing on the game, but we were good in patches and it^s great for me to get the win to finish the season," said Lewis.
"I wasn^t consistent enough this season and didn^t deserve to be in the top four, but I^m putting a lot of work in both in practice and in other areas of my life to try to make myself better."
The destiny of the Betway Premier League Darts title will be decided next Thursday at The O2 in London, with van Gerwen^s semi-final with Anderson opening the night before van Barneveld meets Taylor.
The PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship final between Keegan Brown and Rowby-John Rodriguez will then take place before the earlier semi-final winners return to the stage to compete for the £150,000 Betway Premier League Darts title in the final.
Tournament sponsors Betway make van Gerwen the 7/5 favourite to retain his title, with Taylor 3/2 to win his seventh Premier League title, Anderson 13/2 to win the event for a second time and van Barneveld 8/1 to taste Premier League glory for a first time.
Tickets for the Betway Premier League Darts Play-Offs are still available and can be purchased from The O2 on 0844 856 0202 or via www.axs.com.
Betway Premier League Darts
May 15, The Brighton Centre
Dave Chisnall 4-7 Adrian Lewis
Gary Anderson 7-4 Raymond van Barneveld
Robert Thornton 5-7 Phil Taylor
Peter Wright 5-7 Michael van Gerwen
May 22, The O2, London
Betway Premier League Darts Semi-Finals:
Michael van Gerwen v Gary Anderson
Raymond van Barneveld v Phil Taylor
PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship Final:
Keegan Brown v Rowby-John Rodriguez
Betway Premier League Darts Final
van Gerwen/Anderson v van Barneveld/Taylor
Tickets: 0844 856 0202 or www.axs.com
Dave Chisnall v Adrian Lewis
0-1 - Lewis makes a stunning start by opening the game with two 180s, and though he is unable to complete the nine-darter he returns to finish double ten for a 13-dart finish.
1-1 - Chisnall misses the bull for a 170 finish to level, but returns to break back with double eight.
2-1 - Double top sees Chisnall move ahead.
2-2 - Lewis lands two 180s in a leg for the second time in the game as he levels.
2-3 - Lewis, like Chisnall earlier, misses the bull for a 170 checkout, but returns to pin double eight to break.
2-4 - Lewis posts another maximum before double ten puts him two legs clear.
3-4 - Chisnall hits back on double 18.
3-5 - Chisnall replies with a maximum, but misses three darts at doubles across two visits to level the game, and Lewis steps in on double ten.
4-5 - The pair trade 180s before double 18 once again helps Chisnall to a leg.
4-6 - Tops sees Lewis secure a minimum of a point from the game.
4-7 - Lewis seals victory on double ten to end the season with back-to-back wins.
Gary Anderson v Raymond van Barneveld
1-0 - Anderson claims the opening leg to settle any nerves as he bids to win a Play-Off place.
1-1 - The Scot misses his chance to break as van Barneveld levels on double 16.
1-2 - Further missed doubles from Anderson allow the Dutchman to finish 110 to break and move ahead.
2-2 - Anderson levels on double six.
3-2 - Anderson fires in a third 180 of the game before regaining the lead with a 61 finish on double 18.
4-2 - Anderson lands double 12 as he breaks again to win a third successive leg.
5-2 - Anderson takes out 100 with two double tops for a crowd-pleasing checkout as he moves three legs clear.
6-2 - The 2011 champion^s charge continues as he takes out 124 on the bull to secure a point from the game - and putting himself a leg away from making sure of a Play-Off place.
6-3 - Anderson misses two match darts, one each at double top and ten, as van Barneveld posts double 14 for a 14-dart leg to stop his opponent^s run.
6-4 - Tops sees van Barneveld continue his bid to claim a draw.
7-4 - Anderson opens with a fourth 180, and lands tops to complete the win and secure his Play-Off place.
Robert Thornton v Phil Taylor
1-0 - Taylor misses his chance to claim the opening leg, and Thornton posts double ten to hold.
1-1 - Taylor finishes 96 on tops to level.
2-1 - Thornton starts with a 180 and adds a 162 score to leave 32 as he regains the lead.
2-2 - Thornton posts another maximum, but misses the bull to finish 90 as Taylor steps in to hold throw on double 19.
3-2 - Thornton lands a 180, but misses the bull - only for Taylor to miss tops for a 106 finish to break and allow the Scot back in to regain the lead.
3-3 - Taylor hits a 180 to leave 86, and takes out the finish on double four to square the game.
3-4 - Taylor claims the game^s first break of throw, with Thornton missing tops for a 120 finish to allow him in on double 16.
3-5 - A nervy double one from Taylor edges him two legs clear.
3-6 - Taylor secures a minimum of a point, with the pair trading 180s before the 16-time World Champion finishes 90.
4-6 - Thornton lands two 180s before punishing two missed match darts from Taylor at tops by keeping the game alive on double two.
5-6 - Thornton hits double ten to send the match into a decider.
5-7 - Taylor lands a 180 to leave 41 after nine darts, and though Thornton lands a second maximum, double eight sees Taylor finally secure victory and claim his Play-Off place.
Peter Wright v Michael van Gerwen
1-0 - Wright lands a 180 and double eight to win the opening leg.
1-1 - van Gerwen posts a maximum before finishing 79 as he levels.
1-2 - van Gerwen lands another maximum, and when Wright misses the bull for a 161 finish, he steps in to break on double 16 with an 11-dart leg.
1-3 - The reigning champion takes out 88 to move two legs up with another 11-darter.
2-3 - Wright this time completes a brilliant 161 finish on the bull to hit back.
2-4 - van Gerwen maintains an average above 116 by finishing 64 in two darts.
2-5 - Double ten sees van Gerwen move three legs clear.
3-5 - van Gerwen misses the bull, and Wright posts a tricky double 15 to hit back.
3-6 - Wright misses the bull, allowing van Gerwen in for an 87 finish to complete a third 11-darter of the game.
4-6 - Wright again misses the bull, for another 161 finish, but returns to land double eight.
5-6 - Double 12 sees Wright send the game all the way.
5-7 - van Gerwen opens with a 180 before sealing victory on double 16.