Smith and Wright stunned in the opening round at the US Darts Masters.
On the opening night of the 2023 bet365 US Darts Masters, Jim Long shocked incumbent champion Michael Smith in a historic evening at Madison Square Garden.
The Canadian veteran delivered the performance of his career to defeat World Champion Smith 6-2, overcoming five 180s from the St Helens star to advance to Saturday’s quarter-finals.
Long’s compatriot Jeff Smith also advanced on an exciting night in New York, punishing Peter Wright’s subpar performance to ensure two North American participants would compete on Finals Day.
Long, however, stole the show at the Theatre, scoring three 180s and nailing 97 and 115 checkouts to earn a last-eight clash with 2017 winner Michael van Gerwen.
“I’m still taking it in. Michael is the cream of the crop. I’m ecstatic,” claimed Long, a former World Cup of Darts quarter-finalist.
“This is the biggest win of my career by far. I was so nervous. I had so many friends here tonight so it’s a very special moment for me.
“It’s an honour to play these guys. As North American dart players, it’s a real blessing to have the opportunity to play the best players in the world.”
Van Gerwen began his challenge with a 6-2 victory over Canadian newcomer Jake Macmillan, capping up the match with a magnificent 141 finish.
Wright, meanwhile, was the second PDC superstar to fall on a thrilling Friday night in New York, losing 6-2 to former Lakeside Championship runner-up Smith.
Wright made a sluggish start to the contest, sporting a new grip as well as new darts, and he was well punished by the CDC Cross-Border Challenge winner.
Smith’s confidence grew as the match proceeded, pulling out 108 to move to the brink of victory before defying an 11-dart skin-saver from the Scot to claim a historic triumph.
“I’ve had a lot of good games with Peter over the last few years,” said Smith, who will be among the headline acts in Saturday afternoon’s North American Championship.
“My combination finishing is my claim to fame. If I am hitting doubles I’m going to beat people, and if I’m not, the chances are I’m going out pretty quickly.
“Peter was not at his best there and you just have to roll with the punches and take your chances, and I managed to do that.”
Gerwyn Price began his pursuit for his first US Darts Masters title with a 6-1 demolition of American number one Jules van Dongen, averaging over 105 to continue his blazing pace.
The Welshman won legs of 13, 16, 14, 12, 14, and 12 darts to cap off an immaculate performance, confirming his development with a spectacular tops-tops 105 checkout.
“I felt comfortable, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” insisted Price, who made back-to-back World Series finals in Bahrain and Copenhagen back in January.
“I was off the pace in a couple of those legs, so I’m happy with the 105 average, but there’s still a lot more to come.
“I’m playing well, I’m confident in my game, so fingers crossed I can maintain my form and pick up that trophy.”
In his opening round win over Matt Campbell, 2019 champion Nathan Aspinall averaged over 105, displaying a faultless exhibition of finishing to account for Canada’s number one.
Aspinall, who was making his first appearance on American soil since winning the title in Las Vegas, saw Campbell come back from 4-2 down to tie the match, before firing legs of 11 and 14 darts to secure his spot in the last eight.
“Matt Campbell is the player that nobody really wanted to play,” insisted the former UK Open champion, who now takes on Jeff Smith for a place in the semi-finals.
“I knew I had to perform and I did. It was an amazing night. I really enjoyed the walk-on and so did the crowd, and I backed it up with a fantastic performance.
“I’m just on cloud nine. I’m in New York, playing at Madison Square Garden, playing a sport that I love. What is there not to be happy about?
“I just hope this continues because I’m in a very good place, and if Nathan’s in a good place, he can win titles.”
Rob Cross opened Friday’s first round play with a 6-2 triumph over Tennessee’s Jason Brandon, winning five straight legs midway through the tie.
In the last eight, Cross will face Dimitri Van den Bergh, who upset rookie JT Davis by the same score, converting 121 and 130 checkouts to advance with a 95 average.
In other action, Luke Humphries made his New York debut with a 6-2 victory over CDC Continental Cup winner Alex Spellman, converting a pair of ton-plus finishes.
The US Darts Masters will come to an end on Saturday evening, with the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final all taking place in a marathon session at the Theatre.
2023 bet365 US Darts Masters
Schedule of Play
Friday June 2
Rob Cross 6-2 Jason Brandon
Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-2 JT Davis
Luke Humphries 6-2 Alex Spellman
Nathan Aspinall 6-4 Matt Campbell
Gerwyn Price 6-1 Jules van Dongen
Jeff Smith 6-2 Peter Wright
Jim Long 6-2 Michael Smith
Michael van Gerwen 6-2 Jake Macmillan
Saturday June 3
bet365 North American Darts Championship
Schedule of Play
Quarter-Finals (1300 EST)
Matt Campbell v Jason Brandon
Alex Spellman v JT Davis
Jeff Smith v Jim Long
Jules van Dongen v Jake Macmillan
Campbell/Brandon v Spellman/Davis
Smith/Long v Van Dongen/Macmillan
All matches best of 11 legs
2023 bet365 US Darts Masters
Evening Session (1900 EST)
Jim Long v Michael van Gerwen
Rob Cross v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Gerwyn Price v Luke Humphries
Jeff Smith v Nathan Aspinall
Best of 11 legs
Long/Van Gerwen v Cross/Van den Bergh
Price/Humphries v Smith/Aspinall
Best of 13 legs
Best of 15 legs