Rob Cross secured his first PDC title of 2023 with an emphatic 8-3 victory over Mike De Decker in Saturday's Players Championship 11 final in Leicester.
Cross produced a series of dominant displays to scoop the £12,000 top prize at the Morningside Arena, clinching his first ranking title since October 2022 in the process.
The world number five has made a subdued start to the campaign, but he reaffirmed his credentials in some style, dispatching De Decker with a 101 average to triumph in Saturday's showpiece.
The opening four legs of the afternoon's decider were shared despite a huge disparity in the averages, as De Decker conjured up a spectacular 141 checkout to restore parity at two apiece.
Cross continued to outscore the young Belgian and that was soon reflected in the scoreline, with the former World Champion seizing control with a three-leg burst of 14, 13 and 14 darts.
De Decker replied with a 12-darter to reduce the deficit to 3-5, only for Cross to storm to victory in sensational style, converting 92, 89 and 146 checkouts in consecutive legs to clinch his ninth Players Championship crown.
"I just love winning," reflected Cross, who moves further clear of Luke Humphries in the race to represent England alongside Michael Smith at next month's World Cup of Darts.
"In these last couple of weeks, I've really wanted it again and I think that's been a massive turning point.
"Last week I really wanted it but it didn't quite work out. I'm so glad that I got the win today.
"You've got the best of the best coming through now and it's hard. Even these players that haven't won titles are still so dangerous and you have to do your job.
"I have lost in so many finals in certain disciplines and nobody remembers the runner-up. I was desperate to win, and it's a good kickstart now. I want to keep moving forward."
Above average darts
Cross kicked off his campaign by averaging almost 106 to overcome a spirited Owen Roelofs, and he continued his progress with wins over Florian Hempel and Scott Waites - accounting for the latter in a last-leg shoot-out.
The 32-year-old stormed through to the semi-finals with comprehensive 6-0 and 6-1 wins over Lee Evans and Joe Murnan, setting up a showdown against Saturday's surprise package Radek Szaganski.
Cross looked poised to breeze through after racing into a 3-0 lead, although he was forced to fend off a superb fightback from the Pole, eventually winning through in a dramatic decider.
Despite succumbing in his maiden PDC ranking final, De Decker claimed a host of major scalps in Leicester to pocket the £8,000 runner-up and boost his hopes of World Matchplay qualification.
The Belgian came through three deciding-leg ties in his opening four matches, edging out second seed Luke Humphries after dispatching Luc Peters with a ton-topping average.
De Decker then averaged 105 and converted three ton-plus checkouts to deny Gerwyn Price in a thrilling quarter-final tie, before recording a battling 7-5 win against Niels Zonneveld in the last four.
Zonneveld defeated four fellow Dutchmen to progress in his run to the semi-finals, averaging 101 and 99 in wins over Jermaine Wattimena and Kevin Doets respectively.
Szaganski also enjoyed a landmark day at the Morningside Arena, dumping out Masters champion Chris Dobey, Australia's World Cup winner Simon Whitlock and averaging 107 to dispatch Joe Cullen in the quarter-finals.
Cullen crashed out in the last eight alongside Premier League table-topper Price, who posted three ton-plus averages before losing out to an inspired De Decker in the last eight.
Joe Murnan and Jimmy Hendriks also bowed out at the same stage, after progressing to their first ProTour quarter-finals of 2023.
Elsewhere, Michael van Gerwen returned to action following his injury scare during Thursday's Cazoo Premier League in Aberdeen, where he was forced to withdraw with an upper arm injury.
Van Gerwen averaged 101 in his opening-round tie against Boris Krcmar, but he was edged out in a deciding leg by the Croatian, while Jonny Clayton and Gary Anderson also suffered first-round exits.
This weekend's Players Championship double-header concludes in Leicester on Sunday, with Players Championship 12 being streamed through PDCTV and bookmakers' websites worldwide from 1300 BST.
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