Michael Smith and Michael van Gerwen have produced what is already being called the greatest leg of darts in history, with the Englishman beating his Dutch rival to a perfect nine-dart finish in the PDC world championship final. 

Smith won his first world title, beating Dutch great van Gerwen 7-4 in the best of 13-sets final.

But the overall result was at least partially overshadowed by two minutes of incredible play earlier in the match at the Alexandra Palace, known by fans as the “Ally Pally”.

Darts has become a fascinating TV sport — target practice with tiny projectiles shown on a big screen in arenas for excitable crowds, fuelled by beer and fun.

The players walk in along a walkway, high-fiving fans as they are flanked by security guards and accompanied by rock music, boxing or pro-wrestling-style. The play takes place on a stage with a huge backdrop that dwarfs the actual dartboard.

There are regular adrenaline hits for the already excited fans whenever there is a 180 — the best possible score, with three maximum treble-20s in a single visit.

A darts player walks along a red carpet surrounded by security guards, holding his hands out to fist-bump fans.
Darts tournaments look a little like boxing title fights, with players entering to rock music while surrounded by security guards.(Getty Images: BSR Agency/Pieter Verbeek)

The inner band is worth treble the number, while the outer band is worth double. Darts is scored counting down from 501. Legs are won by getting down to zero, finishing on a double. 

The magic leg is a nine-dart finish – which usually sees two maximum 180s followed by another treble 20, a treble 19 and finishing on a double 12 or a treble 20 and treble 15 followed by a double 18.

Nine-dart finishes are reasonably rare in televised tournaments, so they still receive a huge reception in the hall from the thousands of fans in attendance.

Usually one player is in sync for one leg, while the other player watches on.

Overnight, however, in the biggest game on the darting calendar, the crowd, the commentators (and possibly the players themselves) were stunned as not one but both players were “on” for a nine-darter.

It came in the third leg of the second set and the excitement levels rose exponentially as first Michael “MvG” van Gerwen — a three-time world champion — and then Smith, going for his first title, hit opening 180s and then stayed on target.

Dutch dart player Michael van Gerwen makes a face after missing a double to win a leg in a big match.
Michael van Gerwen was attempting to win his fourth world title and complete a nine-darter in the decider — but he fell short in both respects. (Getty Images: Luke Walker)

Commentator Wayne Mardle — who had played in three world title finals himself in his playing days — was losing it along with the crowd.

“They’re both on nines! They’re both on a nine!” he called, as Smith hit a second 180 to leave himself a 141 finish.

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The decibel levels were at airport runway levels as van Gerwen stepped to the oche needing 144. He hit a first treble 20, then another, before missing the double 12 as thousands of fans — and at least 1 million more at home — collectively groaned.

“One man misses, does the other man get [it]?, I have never seen the like,” Mardle said.

“Come on, Bully Boy!” he called out Smith’s nickname as the 32-year-old from St Helens in northern England stepped up for the crucial throws.

One treble 20, met by a roar. A treble 19 — met by an even bigger roar. The Ally Pally was well and truly rocking. 

Finally Smith’s third throw landed in the middle of the bed for double 12 — and all hell broke loose.

“That was the most amazing leg of darts that you will ever see! I can’t speak, I can’t speak!” Mardle cried as fans lost their minds and the usually undemonstrative Smith looked at the crowd and raised a fist in jubilation.

A dart arcs through the air as a player stands with his hand pointed downwards at the end of a throw in a match.
Michael Smith threw nine perfect darts in the third leg of the second set against Michael van Gerwen. (Getty Images: BSR Agency/Pieter Verbeek)

Mardle was so overcome that he lost his voice and had to be subbed out for Canadian three-time world champion John Part in the commentary box for the rest of the match.

The crowd was stunned, and social media went into meltdown.

From there the rest of the match was still a stirring contest, as Smith levelled the match at 1-1, then took the third before van Gerwen charged back to lead 3-2.

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Smith would not go away, and he won four sets on the spin to lead 6-3, one set away from victory. Van Gerwen won the 10th set, and then led 2-0 in the 11th, but Smith hit back to level at 2-2.

Then the Englishman hit back-to-back 180s to send the crowd delirious once again at the prospect of a nine-darter to finish the final.

With van Gerwen trailing it was up to him — Smith missed the first treble, but recovered to leave himself 32 (double 16) to win.

At his next visit he missed the double, before hitting double eight to clinch the title,  in the process ensuring he would become the world number one.

A darts player brandishes the world championship trophy above his head as confetti falls from the ceiling.
Michael Smith finished off the final to clinch a 7-4 win over Michael van Gerwen to win his first world title.(Getty Images: Luke Walker)