The championship began with perhaps its greatest ever shock when Tony Knowles ended Steve Davis's reign with a thumping 10-1 defeat in the first round.
Showman Higgins was a popular champion
This defeat of Davis, and of other title contenders Terry Griffiths and Cliff Thorburn, opened up the draw.
But Alex Higgins still had to tread the line between glory and defeat before claiming the title.
Higgins, champion 10 years earlier, won 13-12 on the green against Doug Mountjoy and then beat Willie Thorne 13-10 to reach the semi-finals, where he faced 19-year-old Jimmy White.
White led 15-13 and was on the brink of reaching the final but Higgins made a 72 break to trail by one.
Then from 0-59 in the next produced one of the finest match-saving clearances of all time, a brilliant 69 in which he was frequently out of position, to bring the scores level at 15-15.
Further runs of 59 and 37 gave him the decider and he went on to beat Ray Reardon 18-15, rounding off the final with a 135 total clearance.
As he received the trophy, Higgins tearfully called to wife Lynn to join him on the stage with their baby daughter Lauren.
It was an appropriately emotional end for the triumph of snooker's most controversial showman.