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John Higgins beats Mark Williams to win UK title

John Higgins

Higgins recovers from brink of defeat in UK final

By Mark Ashenden

Scot John Higgins produced a stunning fightback to beat Mark Williams 10-9 and win a third UK Championship title.

The Welshman resumed the evening 6-2 up and looked set for victory at 9-7 but Higgins got the required snooker to hit back and set up the dramatic finale.

Higgins struggled in the first session as his opponent knocked in an 82 and 85 but the Scot roared back with two centuries to get him sniffing victory.

Both had chances at 9-9 but Higgins bagged his fifth frame in a row to win.

Amazingly, the triumph - his 22nd ranking title - was secured with a stunning double on the brown and it was a tearful Telford as wife Denise celebrated her husband securing a third UK Championship crown in his first major tournament since a six-month ban.

Given everything that surrounds it, this is my finest hour on the table

John Higgins

It has been an emotional period for the 35-year-old, who returned to the game in November after his suspension for failing to report a match-fixing approach came to an end. He has also had to cope with an ill father.

The 'Wizard of Wishaw' is well known for his gritty style and dogged determination but few would have expected him to overhaul his old rival from Wales after looking down and out at 5-9.

"I was a man on a mission. I was really determined to try and stop anything which prevented me from winning it," said Higgins, who reclaimed his world number one spot with victory.

"Given everything that surrounds it, this is my finest hour on the table. It means everything, just to be back playing and winning. It means a great deal. I just never gave up.

606: DEBATE

"I thought 9-5 was too big a mountain but each frame was going past and I was still in it. It is an unbelievable feeling."

The defeat will be hard to swallow for Williams who had one hand on the trophy when his opponent needed a snooker in the 17th frame, but after missing the decisive yellow and seeing the cue-ball end up in the pocket, you sensed he had missed his moment.

It had all started so promisingly for Williams, fresh from his nail-biting last-frame victory over Shaun Murphy on Saturday, who rattled in an opening 83 break and despite losing the next, soon led 3-1 after stealing the fourth.

Emotional Higgins dedicates title to family

Signs of what might follow later on were evident in the fifth frame as Higgins, trailing 60-0, cleared impeccably with six reds left to reduce the deficit to one.

Williams has made a habit in an 18-year career of shutting out these setbacks and he came back in dominant fashion to end the first session with a break of 85 - his highest of the tournament - to take a 6-2 lead.

Williams extended his lead to five frames after the interval and it all looked rather bleak for the Scot, who won his previous two UK crowns in 1998 and 2000.

But Higgins, who was at his battling best in previous rounds to see off practice partners Graeme Dott (9-8) and Stephen Maguire (9-7), was at it again with a nerveless 90 break in the 10th frame and a 94 in the next to give Williams plenty to think about at 7-4.

The Welshman, cruising after a 70 break, was given a huge scare in the 12th as the gutsy Higgins potted blacks with the five remaining reds before narrowly failing in the chase for the required snooker.

The Scot then turned on the style and a 105 - his first century of the match and fourth of the tournament - made it 8-5.

Williams soon had his opponent needing a miracle though by taking the next but Higgins stuck at it and his comeback was soon taking shape.

Williams 'threw UK final away'

A break of 76 got him to within two frames at 9-7 and a miraculous recovery after needing a snooker took him to within one.

Williams became increasingly twitchy as chances arrived and disappeared. He led in the 18th frame but, after getting a required snooker, his limp to the finish line was curtailed yet again with a bad kick.

Barely 24 hours after coming through a last-frame decider against Murphy, Williams looked good again, despite Higgins knocking in an early break of 68. But, after a doubled brown, it was the Scot who stayed composed to emerge victorious, punching the air in delight.

Williams may take a while to recover from this painful defeat, but he can still take great pride in battling to the final after a fairly patchy tournament and will enter the new year as world number three - not bad for a man who pondered quitting the sport in 2007.

"It was a great game and the way I have been playing this week, I am more than happy with what I have achieved," the Welshman said. "But I am a bit disappointed, I probably threw it away at the end."

Meanwhile Higgins, whose career was in the balance as he fought the match-fixing allegations earlier in the year, has his eye on more major trophies, having already overhauled world champion Neil Robertson at the top of the world rankings just a month into his comeback.



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see also
Williams 'threw UK final away'
13 Dec 10 |  Snooker
UK Championship - latest scores
12 Dec 10 |  Snooker
Williams beats Murphy in thriller
11 Dec 10 |  Snooker
Higgins beats Allen to make final
10 Dec 10 |  Snooker
Murphy to face Williams in semi
09 Dec 10 |  Snooker
Higgins wins to reach last four
08 Dec 10 |  Snooker
Williams beats struggling Hendry
07 Dec 10 |  Snooker
Higgins happy to take second chance
06 Dec 10 |  Snooker
Snooker on the BBC
08 Apr 11 |  Snooker


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