Michael Smith's dreams of winning the William Hill World Darts Championship were shattered last night when he crashed to a 7-3 defeat against Dutchman Michael Van Gerwen at London's Alexandra Palace.
The culmination of darts' biggest-ever event saw world number one Van Gerwen produce a dominant display in which he led throughout in the replay of the 2018 Premier League Final.
The Dutchman opened up four-set leads at 4-0 and 6-2, with a determined Smith unable to work his way back into the contest.
In the first World Championship final since 1983 to feature two players under 30 years of age, Van Gerwen completed a 7-3 triumph to walk away with the £500,000 top prize and the coveted Sid Waddell Trophy.
"It means the world to me to win this trophy for a third time," said Van Gerwen, who previously tasted victory in 2014 and 2017.
"Everyone knows I've had some difficult times this year, but to win this one is all that matters at the end of the day. This is the best feeling in the world.
"I was a little bit nervous, my body was pumping with adrenaline and to be honest I didn't play as well as I wanted to, but as long as you win that's all that matters.
"Michael is a phenomenal player, he pushed me all the way and I am sure that one day he will win the World Championship.
"I think I probably should've won more than three World Championship titles by now but it is a great feeling to be able to call myself a three-time world champion. Now it's time for a well-deserved holiday!"
The game began with a stunning 129 checkout on the bullseye from Van Gerwen, setting the tone for the tie before edging the deciding leg to claim the opening set.
The Dutchman was at his relentless best, landing a sublime 126 checkout on his way to winning the second set, and followed it up with the next two sets to double his advantage.
Smith produced a magnificent 124 finish to win the deciding leg of set five to get his first set on the board, and then breezed the sixth set without losing a leg to go within two sets of Van Gerwen.
The world number one quashed any hopes of a Smith comeback, taking the next two sets to go within a leg of victory, only for a dogged Smith to get his third set on the board.
Van Gerwen, who posted his 19th consecutive ton-plus average on the Alexandra Palace stage, found double 16 with his third match dart attempt to claim glory.
"I'm gutted about how the game turned out, I just didn't get going," said Smith.
"I'm annoyed with myself for how I played, and if I took my chances then maybe it would've been a different game.
"I tried way too hard but it's my first World Championship final and I guarantee it won't be my last.
"I guarantee that one day I will lift this trophy."
Van Gerwen and Smith are among the players who will now look ahead to the 2019 Unibet Premier League, which begins in February, after being included in the 10-player field.