The win over his unlucky World Cup-winning team-mate put the Scot on course to emulate his clean sweep of the top three honours during 1995- 96. Had he won, the 21-year-old Higgins would have become the provisional world No 1, denying Hendry top spot for only the second time in six years.
"All this talk of who is No 1 is twaddle," Hendry said. "You can only call yourself No 1 after the World Championship at the end of the season. And that's where I aim to be. But John and I are the two best players in the game. We are stretching away from the rest."
Anything other than an easy win had looked unlikely when Hendry was poised to lead 9-4 after compiling his third century of the match in the 12th frame. But from 59-20 ahead, he conceded four points after swerving to escape from a snooker, giving Higgins the chance to clear and then win the re- spotted black that followed.
Higgins gained confidence, taking the next four frames, and at 9-8 threatened Hendry's 17-match unbeaten record. Undeterred, Hendry made breaks of 82 and 77 to claim the final two frames in just 18 minutes.
UK CHAMPIONSHIP Final (Preston): S Hendry (Sco) bt J Higgins (Sco) 10- 9. Frame scores (Hendry first): 32-72, 78-32, 105-14, 16-65, 80-28, 108- 8 (102 break), 115-14 (115 break), 36-70, 4-93, 73-4, 61-33, 108-0 (108 break), 59-66, 39-68, 32-96, 29-62, 12-62, 82-0, 77-0.Reuse content