John Higgins admitted he was “gutted” for his fans after a chance of home glory slipped through his fingers with an incredible eight successive frames for Marco Fu giving him the Coral Scottish Open title.
The “Wizard of Wishaw” had been in complete control, three successive centuries giving him a 4-1 lead, looking every value to pick up success in Glasgow’s Emirates Arena.
But as Fu fought back to end the afternoon session 4-4, the momentum changed, the Hong Kong star blitzing through the evening to walk away with the Stephen Hendry Trophy after a 9-4 win.
Yet despite suffering one of the most painful defeats of his professional career, Higgins was in admiration for his conqueror, disappointed not to make the most of a first ranking event in Scotland since 2010.
“I played well at the start and, at 4-1, I was looking great, but Marco completely froze me out and played fantastically,” he said.
“He is one of the nicest guys in the game and completely deserves this, fair play to him.
“To get to 4-4 made it anyone’s game heading into the evening, and he’s gone and totally dominated when he’s come back.
“You still sit there believing you can force your way back, but Marco played too well for that comeback to happen.
“I was gutted, the atmosphere was electric and I was disappointed I couldn’t make it a great night and take it down to the final frame or something to shout about.”
Higgins started in electric fashion, becoming the first man to open a ranking final with three successive centuries in a quite breathless opening, scoring 126, 101 and 100.
But when Fu responded with his own century – his 11th of the tournament – the fear of a rout ended very quickly.
And through gritty snooker, the world No 14 battled back to parity – a cause that looked unlikely when three frames down.
Come the evening, “Mr Cool” showed himself to be exactly that, breaks of 89, 59, 59 and 60 taking him over the line.
“He played some really clever safety shots and put me in some positions I couldn’t get out of,” added Higgins, missing out on the chance to lift the trophy named after his hero.
“He’s shown himself to be the player of the week, he’s a worthy winner.
“I’ll have a great Christmas, there’s been a fantastic season and I’ve had a fantastic week in Glasgow, it was just a shame that I wasn’t able to finish it off.”
For Fu, it was a case of full circle in Scotland, the same as his first in the Grand Prix in Aberdeen almost a decade ago.
And it seemed just reward for a man who had blown apart the competition this week, finally taking a title his ranking and technical ability seemed to deserve.
But Fu was pleased to reflect on lady luck, the important factor of his breakthrough victory in Glasgow.
He said: “I can’t believe it, the way John started the match I thought it could have been 9-1 or 9-2, that was very possible.
“It was a great match of snooker, I just can’t believe I’m the champion.
“I was feeling the pressure, I saw what John did in the semi-final, it’s always possible so I wanted to close out the match as soon as possible.”