It is 20 years since John Higgins first won the Betfred World Snooker Championship but he still looks a major threat despite having to battle through to the second round in Sheffield.
Higgins saw off tricky Thailand potter Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 10-7 at the Crucible Theatre to reach the last 16 for the 20th time and he now faces Jack Lisowski for a place in the last eight. The Scot’s tag as one of the favourites is a far cry from recent years – where he’s openly admitted he thought his days at the top were done.
However, a run to the final last season coupled with a consistent campaign in 2017-18 has catapulted the 42-year-old back among the reckoning.
But he will know that if he wants to make a serious run in the next fortnight then he will need to improve after making some uncharacteristic mistakes in his victory.
“I was lucky to be 6-3 in front, it flattered me after the first session. He had me in all sorts of bother later in the day too but he missed a few and I kept getting ahead,” said Higgins.
“I think it helped me that I was playing later on in the week because if I was playing him on Saturday or Sunday I’d have been in trouble because he still would have been on a high from qualifying.
“I’m now playing an upgrade on Thepchaiya. Jack has learnt and he beat me in China recently. He makes the game look easy but I will enjoy it.”
Higgins started the match impressively, winning the first three frames comfortably, but Un-Nooh stayed in contention and the pair shared the final six – giving Higgins a 6-3 lead.
The Scot had seemed on for a 147 in frame seven but he broke down when on 104. Un-Nooh came out in the evening fired up and two centuries in three frames helped him claw back to 7-6 at the mid-session interval. But Higgins’ experience showed and he got over the line.
Elsewhere, two-time winner Mark Williams eased through to the second round with a comfortable 10-5 win against Jimmy Robertson – before declaring he is ready to win the title.
The Welshman has not lifted the trophy since 2003 but has won two ranking event titles this season and believes he is back to his very best ahead of a second-round clash with Robert Milkins – who stunned Neil Robertson 10-5.
Robertson became the fifth former champion to exit in the first round, along with Graeme Dott, Shaun Murphy, Stuart Bingham and Mark Selby.
l Watch the snooker World Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with Colin Murray and analysis from Ronnie O’Sullivan, Jimmy White and Neal Foulds.