I thought Higgins had title wrapped up, admits Selby
Mark Selby feared he was going to be thrashed in the final of the Betfred World Championship, before a remarkable turnaround saw him become just the fourth player in history to defend the title.
Selby was floundering late on Sunday as he fell 10-4 behind but, as is so typical of the Leicester potter, he rallied and eventually prevailed 18-15 in a final befitting the Crucible Theatre's 40th anniversary of hosting snooker's greatest prize.
The result ensured Selby's status as the dominant force in the game, as the world number one lifted the famous trophy for the third time in four years.
It was dramatic all the way through, as Selby trailed 10-7 overnight before waltzing into a 13-11 lead before the final session.
With Higgins almost down and out, it looked like it would be a procession for Selby but Higgins responded like the four-time champion he is - before Selby closed it out to win the record £375,000 cheque.
However, he admits he was almost playing for pride as he fell 10-4 down on Sunday night.
"To go 10-4 down and to get out at 10-7 on Sunday night, I was relieved. I hit the wall, I had nothing left and John outplayed me for most of it," he said.
"So to go away 10-7 down, I was over the moon. And then I came back on Monday and played a lot better.
"I was missing everything and I had nothing left, and then I said to myself 'pull yourself together, and do something because if you are going down then go down fighting'.
"So fortunately enough for me, John missed a few balls you would not expect him to and I had a few chances."
"It is very special, to be sitting with three world titles is unbelievable really. To be one of four players to defend it is something I can only dream of.
"It is unbelievable. I am pinching myself. I want to say a big congratulations to John for a great match."
Higgins later said Selby is the toughest player he has ever faced, and the game's top players face a major battle in ending his reign as the best in the world.
Higgins was immense throughout the tournament, but when Selby applied the pressure on Monday he wilted like so many do.
Selby is known as the 'Jester from Leicester', but his less commonly used nickname of the 'Torturer' was more applicable - as he turned Higgins' game inside out.
He won six of the seven frames on Monday afternoon, before winning three of the first four of the evening - putting him 16-12 ahead.
But back came Higgins, as breaks of 88 and 111 narrowed the margins and raised the excitement levels - before he won a third on the bounce in a scrappy affair.
However, Selby showed he can dig deeper than anyone else as he knocked in supreme breaks of 131 and 75 to lift the title.
Selby's third triumph takes him to within one of Higgins and two of Ronnie O'Sullivan, with Stephen Hendry top of the list with seven.