Purity, passion, drama: darts’ renaissance continues in tournament for the ages | Sean Ingle

From smoky nightclubs in the 1980s to sold-out arenas today, the sport keeps rising because it makes for compelling viewing

Forty years ago this month, at the height of darts’ first great tungsten rush, Jocky Wilson left Jollees nightclub in Stoke clutching a world title and a cheque for £6,500 – about £26,000 in today’s money. It is a measure of the sport’s renewed popularity that whoever lifts the PDC World Championship trophy on Monday night will pocket £500,000.

And while the final ‘Oi, Oi, Ois’ are yet to ring out across Alexandra Palace, it is already safe to hail this year’s tournament as a vintage edition. When Michael Smith outpowered Jonny Clayton in a last 16 final-set tiebreak it was instantly hailed as a game for the ages. But such was the quality in so many subsequent matches, including Smith’s 5-4 victory against the world No 1, Gerwyn Price and Peter Wright’s 6-4 slugfest over Gary Anderson – during which Wright hit 24 180s, a record for a world championship match – it may not even have been the best encounter of the week.

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