JONNY Clayton's dream of winning the William Hill World Darts Championship ended in a thrilling seventh set tie-break against Michael Smith at Alexandra Palace.

Smith produced an inspired display to curtail Clayton's hopes of scooping a fifth televised title in 2021, defying a 102.48 average and 14 maximums from 'The Ferret' to reach the quarter-finals.

"I gave it my all, but full credit to Michael he was equally as good," said Clayton.

"It's very disappointing as I felt this year was my time, but I’ll be back next year - and thanks to everyone for the year gone, it’s been amazing."

Clayton, from Pontyberem, edged a thrilling first set in a deciding leg, before doubling his lead with a 3-1 success in set two, with a staggering 110.6 average, only for Smith to seize the initiative.

Smith responded well, taking the third set by a two-leg margin before edging set four with a 13-darter to win the decider, and claiming the fifth set 3-1 to take the lead.

The duo then exchanged big finishes, with Smith’s 121 sandwiched between 161 and 105 checkouts from Clayton, who clinched set six on double 12.

Former World Youth Champion Smith moved to the brink of victory when he finished 112 to break in the third leg of the deciding set, only for Clayton to take out 120 to force a tie-break.

The Premier League, Masters and World Grand Prix champion then executed a 62 finish to place himself a leg from glory, but it was to be Smith’s day as checkouts of 72, 65 and 68 earned him a breath-taking win.

“That deserved to be the final, it was a great game,” said Smith, who landed 11 of the game’s 25 180s.

“Jonny is a class player but, going into the game, I just kept telling myself that I’ve got the game to beat anybody. I’ve always believed that.

“I won’t be getting carried away. It’s only one game and I had poor spells. Jonny played so well that he brought a better level out in me.

“In the past I’ve probably been guilty of wanting it too much so I’m not making that mistake this year.

"I will focus on my darts and see how far that attitude can take me.”