• John Higgins looked dead and buried against Mark Williams, but fought back to claim UK Championship glory in Telford last night. Picture: PA
The Welshman led 6-2 and 9-5 but the Scot, playing in his first major tournament since the match-fixing scandal which engulfed him back in May, refused to be beaten. But after clawing back to 9-7, Williams looked to have halted the Higgins revival when he left the Scot requiring snookers. The Welshman looked all set for what would have been a fairytale win for himself after years in the wilderness when he struggled to rediscover the form which had made him one of the greatest players ever to pick up a cue. Almost 100,000 was traded on Betfair's base price of 1.01 (1/100) on the Welshman when he looked home and hosed and ready to collect the silverware.
But incredibly Williams break came to an end just as he had entered the snookers-required stage and he would go on to pot the white after trying to escape a snooker on the yellow. It handed the Scot the most unlikely lifeline and he duly cleared up. All of a sudden Higgins had the wind in his sails and Williams was shellshocked having seen what looked a certain victory snatched from his grasp. The Welshman was unable to recover and squandered further chances to see out victory in the following two frames. In the end it was little surprise when the dogged Scot finally got over the line to seal one of the most incredible victories the green baize has seen.
Higgins broke down in tears afterwards as he dedicated the win to his cancer-stricken dad, John senior, describing the victory as "fate". The 35-year-old joined an elite band who have won snooker's second most prestigious event – after the world championships – on three or more occasions.
Steve Davis (six), Stephen Hendry (five) and Ronnie O'Sullivan (four) are the other members of the select group. Higgins' success – his 22nd ranking title – also lifted him back to number one in the world rankings ahead of Neil Robertson. Including minor tournaments in Czech Republic and Germany, Higgins 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 number three in the rankings having dropped down to a provisional 47th three years ago. Williams had dominated the afternoon session, but ran out of steam as he neared the finishing line in the evening. After falling 7-2 behind, Higgins took two frames on the spin only for Williams to reopen his four-frame lead at 8-4. Higgins then pulled one back but he looked doomed to defeat when Williams moved 9-5 ahead and within a frame of glory.
But Higgins took the next frames to give himself some hope before pinching the 17th frame when he required a snooker. In a game of incredible twists and turns, Higgins tied the match before sealing victory in a topsy-turvy deciding frame in which Williams had his chances. Indeed, Higgins gave the Welshman a lifelined of his own when he got a kick potting a black, and then missed the tricky 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 arguably the most incredible victory of his decorated career.