Higgins caps improbable fightback

John Higgins pulled off a brilliant recovery to defeat Mark Williams 9-8 and claim the Grand Prix title in nail-biting fashion in Preston last night.

John Higgins pulled off a brilliant recovery to defeat Mark Williams 9-8 and claim the Grand Prix title in nail-biting fashion in Preston last night.

Higgins looked down and out after going 6-2 behind but produced a gutsy fightback to land the £62,000 first prize and win his 17th major title.

The world number one won five frames in a row and then came back from 8-7 down to take the trophy, his 12th world ranking title and second Grand Prix crown.

A delighted Higgins admitted: "I can't believe I've won. I was fuming going back to the hotel after the first session having missed so many balls.

"I was just hoping to win three of the first four frames in the final session to get back to 7-5 so to win four on the spin was a huge bonus. It's a brilliant feeling to have held myself together at the end. To beat someone of Mark's ability like that is fantastic.

"It's probably the best night I've had in my snooker career apart from winning the World Championship."

Higgins was completely out of sorts in the latter part of the first session despite making a bright start to the final. The Scot had compiled breaks of 64 and 55 to lead 2-1 but seriously lost his way as Williams reeled off five frames in a row.

Welshman Williams contributed runs of 82, 73 and 42 in building a 6-2 first session lead as a frustrated Higgins conceded the eighth frame trailing by only 47 points with a possible 59 remaining.

But the evening session was a different story as a revitalised Higgins launched an awesome comeback to take the lead again.

When Williams missed the green in the ninth frame, Higgins pounced to clear up and knocked in quick fire breaks of 68, 53 and 78 to level at 6-6.

It was now Williams, winner of three world ranking titles last season, who began to miss a succession of chances and, exploiting this sudden loss of confidence, Higgins added the 13th frame to edge 7-6 in front.

A touch of good fortune restored the edge to Williams' game when Higgins inadvertently knocked the yellow in from a safety in frame 14. Williams potted the brown as free ball and made a break of 65 to level at 7-7.

The left-hander then re-established his authority by comfortably claiming the next to lead 8-7 but a dogged Higgins made 66 to force the final to a deciding frame.

Williams failed to pot a ball in the last as Higgins made vital runs of 30 and 45 to add the 1999 Grand Prix title to his earlier victory in 1994.

Williams would have gone to number one in the provisional rankings had he won the title.

He said: "I had my chances to win and it was pressure in the end that cost me. I probably bottled it a little bit which is why I don't think I'm quite good enough to get the number one spot yet."

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