Snooker: Higgins escapes punishment after latest outburst: More controversy for the former champion as he makes a quick exit from the World Championships

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The Independent Online
ALEX HIGGINS escaped punishment yesterday for his row with the referee John Williams during a 10-6 defeat by Ken Doherty in the Embassy World Championships in Sheffield.

The 45-year-old, who was world champion in 1972 and 1982, had a confrontation with Williams when he asked the referee to move during the 13th frame of the first-round match on Monday night.

Higgins, whose 23-year career has been punctuated by a series of bans and fines, argued with the referee in front of a packed crowd and a large television audience.

Williams, who has officiated at every World Championship since 1977, refused to budge, saying: 'I've been stood here all day, I'm not moving.'

But Higgins later said: 'Some referees don't know how to walk backwards. I still know how to walk backwards even with six Guinnesses down me . . . and sideways as well - and I can still pot balls.'

But Williams has not made an official complaint and the events manager, Nigel Oldfield, a spokesman for the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, said: 'As far as we're concerned the incident is closed.'

Two other veterans had contrasting fortunes. Terry Griffiths, the 1979 world champion, beat Mark Davis, making his debut at The Crucible, 10-7, but Cliff Thorburn frittered away a 9-2 lead to lose 10-9 to the world No 9, Nigel Bond, in a match that finished at 1.45am yesterday morning.

James Wattana, who is suffering from a cold, captured six frames in a row to defeat Peter Ebdon 10-6 in the pick of the first-round matches. The Thai, who is the world No 5, is attempting follow in the footsteps of Canada's Cliff Thorburn, who is the only overseas winner of the title.

In another first-round match the Welsh left-hander, Darren Morgan, beat Mark King 10-5. Morgan is now assured of his place in the world's top eight next season and that means automatic entry into a series of lucrative events.