Lewis won ten legs in a row to come from 5-1 down to beat Wade 6-5 and book a final meeting with Andy Hamilton, but it had looked for such a long time that it would be his opponent that would be going through.
Wade, known as “The Machine,” had a dart to win the match in the eighth set but broke down, allowing “Jackpot” Lewis in to checkout on 98, and the Stoke thrower did not lose a leg after that, whitewashing Wade in the final three sets.
As a backdrop to the drama on stage, there was the sideshow of the players leaving the arena for a 20-minute period early in the game, with both complaining about a breeze.
Wade was 2-0 up at the time and, with Lewis clearly angry at both the conditions and the now customary abuse he was taking from the crowd, he could have been forgiven for attempting to carry on.
He did not, though, and ultimately paid the price as he melted down to allow Lewis in.
“That was the best win of my career, definitely,” Lewis said.
“Fair play to James, he could have won that 6-0 [had he not gone off]. But that shows why I am world champion.”
On his escape from defeat, when Wade slipped wide of double 18, Lewis added: “He had one dart in his hand, he missed double 18 and I knew it was do or die.
“That shows why I am the champion. There’s no reason why I will not retain my title. I am the best in the world.”
Earlier in a dramatic day, Hamilton, also from Stoke, came from 5-3 down to beat Simon Whitlock.