John Higgins staged a remarkable comeback to overcome Mark Williams 10-9 last night and win his third UK Championship in Telford.
The Scot was on the brink of defeat after trailing 7-2 and then 9-5 in the best-of-19 final. But Higgins held his nerve in adding to his 1998 and 2000 victories in dramatic fashion.
It was his first major tournament win since serving a six-month ban for bringing the game into disrepute after being filmed in Ukraine discussing match-fixing with an uncover tabloid reporter. Higgins had also stated his desire to win the title for his dad, John senior, who has cancer – and he got his wish.
Higgins’ success – his 22nd ranking title – lifted him back to No 1 in the world rankings ahead of Australia’s Neil Robertson. He has now won 18 out of 19 matches since returning to action after his ban.
Williams looked stunned after being on the receiving end of Higgins’ remarkable revival. The only consolation for the Welshman was that he moved back to No 3 in the rankings having dropped down to a provisional 47th three years ago.
Higgins said: “I was a man on a mission.
I was really determined to try and stop anything which prevented me from winning it. Given everything that surrounds it, this is my finest hour on the table.
“Itmeanseverything, just to be back playing and winning. It means a great deal. Obviously it means a great deal tomy family as well.”
Williams paid tribute to Higgins’ fighting qualities. He said: “John done well to come back to be fair to him. I felt the gods were against me on a couple of occasions but I have got no complaints overall.
“I have been pretty dreadful all week,” he added. “That was probably the best match I played all week.”
Williams had extended his lead to 7-2 with a run of 40 at the start of the evening session. Higgins staged a revival and a 90-break in the 10th-frame followed by a 94-clearance cut the gap to three frames. Williams moved to within one frame of the finishing line by winning the 14th but the Scot reeled off the next four frames to set up a final frame shoot-out.
Williams missed a straightforward red into the green pocket and Higgins took advantage with a 66 break. But he got a kick when potting a black, missed the red that would have left Williams needing snookers. Williams responded with a run of 33 but Higgins went for and potted an up-and-down the table brown to seal the title.