Luke Littler, World Darts Championship finalist on his debut at 16 years of age.
We are now firmly in fairytale territory and on Wednesday night, this Warrington phenomenon will search for the perfect ending to the sporting story which has captured imaginations across the country.
In the main hall of Alexandra Palace, the line for the kebab truck stretched back further than any other. No surprise, there. Such is the popularity of Littler – the teenaged prodigy fuelled by fearlessness and doner meat – the burger vans and burrito kiosks never stood a chance.
Littler is now hungry for more than his trademark celebratory takeaway. Tuesday night saw him secure a 6-2 victory over Rob Cross, the only former winner of this tournament who made it to these all-English semi-finals.
With an average of 106, Littler is now one win from immortalising himself as this sport’s youngest-ever world champion.
Luke Littler reached the final of the PDC World Championship with a win over Rob Cross
The 16-year-old overcame an early wobble to reel off an incredible performance
Littler will play either Scott Williams or Luke Humphries in tomorrow’s final
One win from the Sid Waddell Trophy. One win from £500,000. One win from free kebabs for life, as promised by the PR firm who might be regretting that proposal.
One win from cementing himself as the BBC Sports Personality of the Year frontrunner for 2024 and we are only a handful of days into January.
Littler is already guaranteed £200,000 but he is craving more than money. He wants to make history.
Phil Taylor was 29 years old when he won the first of his 16 world titles. Michael van Gerwen was 24. Raymond van Barneveld, 30. Eric Bristow, 22. Cross, nicknamed ‘Voltage’ in a nod to his former employment as an electrician, was 27 when he triumphed at Ally Pally in 2018.
Whatever happened here, Littler had already exceeded expectations. You only needed to study Sky Sports’ viewing figures to understand his remarkable rise in fame.
An audience of 1.4million tuned in to see him defeat Brendan Dolan on New Year’s Day – a figure beaten only by the 1.7m who watched Gary Anderson overcome Taylor in the 2015 final.
As Littler walked on stage to Greenlight by Pitbull – surrounded by thousands of well-wishers whose thirsts were being quenched by £29 four-pint pitchers of Amstel – there was a hug for ‘Wolfie’.
Not Martin Adams, the three-time world champion with that nickname, but the mascot of Warrington Wolves rugby league club who surprised him with a visit yesterday.
There was also a kiss for his mum, Lisa, who looked more nervous than her son as he called for noise from a 3,500-strong crowd sprinkled with nuns, lobsters and crayons. They responded with their usual repertoire of chants here, including: ‘You’ve got school in the morning.’
Cross won the first set but had no answer for the 16-year-old on Tuesday night
Littler lost the first set and was on the verge of losing the second, but bounced back immediately and displayed the game management of a veteran
Littler’s original aim was to win at least one match on this stage. Five victories later, including that humbling of Van Barneveld, he was here as the bookmakers’ favourite to reach the final.
Yet Cross could not be underestimated. He produced the comeback of comebacks to set up this showdown, defeating Chris Dobey 5-4 after trailing 4-0 in his last outing.
His throw does not look as natural as Littler’s, but he averaged more than 100 against Dobey and had been nailing 49 per cent of his doubles as one of this tournament’s finest finishers.
Cross took the first set with an average of 109 and flashed a few smug looks off stage.
The 33-year-old from Pembury was perhaps irked for two reasons heading into this semi-final: one, that he was the former world champion being billed as second favourite to a rookie, and two, that the attention had been on Littler in the build-up rather than him.
Cross, the 2018 world champion, shared a word with Littler at the end of their clash
Cross had the chance to secure the second set but missed bullseye as Littler levelled it at 1-1. With a single throw at his favourite double 10, Littler took the third set for a 2-1 lead. Suddenly, it was the teenager who was in charge of this clash.
At 2-2 in the fourth set, Cross produced six perfect darts to leave himself a 141 finish. Yet there would no nine-darter on this occasion. Instead Littler took a 3-1 lead with an 11-darter.
There was frustration from Littler when Cross made it 3-2. Unlike others, Littler does not depart the Ally Pally stage during the ad breaks. He stays on it to practise, and he stormed into a 5-2 lead with an average of 105 once Cross returned.
When he took out 132 at the start of the eighth set, you suspected even Cross might struggle to come back from this as the crowd sang: ‘There is only one Luke Littler.’
With a dart at double 10, Littler confirmed it: finalist in his first-ever fling at Ally Pally. School in the morning? No chance. Bank, more like, to cash his £500,000 cheque if he can win the final on Wednesday night.