While Ebdon relaxed from three hours and 10 minutes unremitting effort, awaiting the outcome of the evening semi- final between Alan McManus and John Parrott, eventually won by McManus, Higgins was left to travel the couple of miles home to reflect on how a lead of two up with three to play had turned to defeat.
Higgins has successively improved his end of season ranking from 51 to 11 to No 2 but began this campaign inauspiciously, with an astonishing 5-0 first-round loss to the world No 116, Karl Burrows, in the first of the season's 10 ranking events, the Suntory Asian Classic which was played earlier this month.
Although having admitted that for the first time in his professional career he had taken victory for granted, he appeared this week to be back to his familiar, accurate ball-potting, effective self. Crisply, he went to 3-0 but Ebdon, who agrees with Stephen Hendry that "I play better when my back's to the wall", recovered to 3-3. A 62 clearance to snatch the fifth frame on the black was crucial to this sequence. Higgins regained the lead with a run of 81 and made this 5-3 when Ebdon, needing a 60-odd clearance, failed at the green on 40.
A 9-8 defeat by Nigel Bond, who had needed a snooker at 0-69 in the decider of their British Open final last April, may well have made Higgins more anxious in defending the hard-won lead. He made little impact in the next two frames and at 23-0 in the decider put a simple black on to the near jaw of a middle pocket, the ball spinning away across the baize.
Ebdon responded with 46, pausing at 26 to query sportingly with both his opponent and the referee whether he had fouled a ball with his waistcoat, stretching over. He failed at the penultimate red but Higgins, over-playing his hand in his anxiety, left a tricky last red in the jaws when a constructive safety would have been a sounder choice of shot. He did not have another chance.
"The fear of losing and the will to win" motivated Ebdon's revival. "I had him 10 times and couldn't win it," was the truth from the Scottish point of view.
Scotland will nevertheless have one finalist today as their world No 6, McManus, who made a 138 total clearance, the highest of the tournament, in beating the greatest Scot of them all, Hendry 6-3 in Friday evening's quarter-final, emerged a 6-5 winner over Parrott, after a four-hour marathon.
Parrott was surprised to find himself still at Motherwell since he was playing with an unfamiliar cue, his own having been lost two weeks ago somewhere between a Liverpool post office and his cue maker in London.
The replica replacement, however, proved serviceable enough for him to recover from 1-4 and 3-5 to take the match the full distance before McManus prevailed in a tense 34-minute deciding frame.Reuse content