An emotional John Higgins claimed his fourth Betfred.com World Championship title tonight as the most harrowing 12 months of his life ended in triumph.
Judd Trump’s exhilarating run in Sheffield ended in defeat at the hands of a Crucible master as Higgins prevailed 18-15.
Higgins broke down in tears at mention of his late father, the man who guided his career and died in February, but savoured his victory.
He said: “It’s been great. It’s an unbelievable moment.”
“John was the better player on the day,” Trump said, although Higgins immediately contradicted him.
“We’ve got a new sensation in the game,” Higgins said.
At one stage Trump, the sensation of the tournament if not its champion, led 12-9. However as he attempted to stretch four frames clear the 21-year-old missed a difficult blue, and that proved a turning point.
Fearless potting had served Trump well through the rounds, from his opening win over last year’s champion Neil Robertson, through crushing victories against Martin Gould and Graeme Dott and again as he ended Ding Junhui’s campaign in the semi-finals.
It brought him 10 centuries, an army of new supporters, and the belief that he was suddenly “invincible”. This for a player who had to come through qualifying just to reach the first round. And yet today the potting was his downfall, with the qualifier from Bristol taking on too much, missing too often and leaving chances for Higgins which were devoured.
A year to the day ago, Higgins was the subject of frame-fixing allegations which overshadowed the final. He was charged by the snooker authorities, but battled to clear his name and largely succeeded. The fixing charges were dropped and a six-month ban for minor offences around betting kept him sidelined only until November.
A triumph at the UK Championship in December was followed by the Welsh Open title in February, just days after the death of his father, John snr.
Higgins dearly wanted to win the world title for his father, and after his semi-final win over Mark Williams he pointed to the heavens to show what reaching another final meant.
Having played poorly yesterday and finished just 10-7 behind, the Scot produced a performance befitting his status as a great of the game to firstly draw level and then fend off Trump who refused to give up.
Higgins was almost machine-like in his efficiency as he made one frame-winning break after another. Trump saw practically every error being punished, and under that sort of pressure it was hardly any wonder he began to produce them more frequently.
Only Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Ray Reardon have won more world titles in the modern era than Higgins, who goes one ahead of his quarter-final victim Ronnie O’Sullivan after adding to his 1998, 2007 and 2009 successes.
In the afternoon session, Higgins had won six of eight frames to open a 13-12 lead, making 59, 97, 47, 93, 113 and 57. Considering his highest break in the opening 17 frames was a mere 64, it was some improvement.
Trump got to 38 on a break in the first frame of the evening before potting a red but going in-off into a middle pocket. There seemed to be little danger but Higgins pulled out a tremendous cut red to launch a break of 62. Again, Trump had lost a frame in which he led.
He ended a five-frame streak for Higgins, aided by a run of 41, but looked to be in trouble after missing a black in the next.
However Higgins did the same with a 38-25 lead, sending both white and black bouncing on the table.
Trump cannot have imagined getting another chance, but he did and he took it to make it 14-14.
He moved 51-0 ahead in the next frame before leaving himself snookered on the black after splitting the pack. Again, Higgins found a way to win the frame.
Trump fluked a red to lead 35-0 in the 30th frame but then missed the black and had every reason to fear the worst.
This time Higgins ground to a halt on 45, playing safe off the yellow, but further chances followed and soon the frame was safe.
Trump replied with 70 and narrowed Higgins’ lead to one frame again.
The youngster howled with disgust when the pink ran into the white’s path to halt a break of 33 in frame 32, and he could hardly bear to watch as Higgins looked poised to clear up. He missed the brown after reaching 50, but still went on to take the frame.
Trump was one away from defeat but opened a 60-0 lead in the next frame, before missing a straight pink. After another red, Trump had enough points to leave Higgins needing a snooker, but he got it on the pink, tucking up behind the black.
Higgins doubled pink and potted an easy black, and the title was his again.