MICHAEL VAN GERWEN retained his Unibet Masters title with an imperious 11-6 defeat of Dave Chisnall at ArenaMK on Sunday night, after surviving seven missed darts against Phil Taylor on his way to glory.
Van Gerwen had kicked off his 2015 challenge with victory in Milton Keynes before going on to win a further 17 events during the year, and again came out on top in the battle of the world's top 16.
After storming past both Stephen Bunting and Michael Smith for the loss of only four legs as he reached the semi-finals, van Gerwen then overcame a huge scare to see off a revitalised Taylor 11-10.
Taylor himself had come through a deciding leg in his quarter-final win over Peter Wright, but missed seven darts to defeat van Gerwen before the Dutchman produced a 12-darter to move into the final.
There, he took the opening five legs without giving Chisnall a dart at a double, hitting four 180s in the process, and went on to finish 110 as he led 7-1.
Chisnall - who had hit back from 8-0 down to win his first round tie with Robert Thornton before also defeating Vincent van der Voort and James Wade - took three of the next four legs to threaten another comeback as he cut the gap to 8-4.
The next four were shared as Chisnall matched his rival's tally of six 180s, but the world number ten was unable to claim another break of throw as van Gerwen held on to hit double five for the title.
"I'm really happy to win this trophy," said van Gerwen, who averaged 104 for the tournament. "I really had to work for this and it was a hard day.
"I had a bit of luck but you can't ask for anything more than to be holding the trophy at the end. Phil missed seven match darts, which he normally never does, and when someone gives you a chance like that you have to take it.
"At 5-0 in the final I knew the game was over. I had a couple of good finishes afterwards, held my own throw and it was enough to win the game.
"It was a tough day and I feel fantastic. It means a lot to me and I'm really glad to win this Unibet Masters again.
"I started last year exactly the same and we start the Premier League this Thursday, so that's my aim now. I'll enjoy this win and get myself ready to play James Wade in Leeds."
Chisnall was appearing in the fourth televised final of his career, having hit a thrilling 12 maximums in his 11-6 semi-final win over James Wade, but the St Helens ace was left to take home the £25,000 runner-up prize.
"After being 8-0 down in the first round I didn't expect to get through that, so it's a great weekend to reach the final," said Chisnall. "I'm not happy with how I played in the final but there were a few tired darts.
"I beat Michael in the World Grand Prix a couple of years ago and he's punished me for it ever since! You can't give him a head start like I did but he was too good there and he showed why he's the world number one.
"I'm playing really well but it wasn't meant to be and I'll try again in the next tournament."