Leading 8-7, Hendry appeared to be on course to complete back-to-back world-ranking tournament triumphs but found it impossible to close down proceedings. Higgins, his closest pursuer on the world-ranking list, spectacularly drew level with a 102 break - the highest of the match - and held his nerve to take the 17th frame.
Higgins, winner of the British Open in 1995, required only one scoring visit to pocket the pounds 60,000 first prize and lift the 10th trophy of his professional career.
Hendry attempting a red from distance, never threatened the pocket, and Higgins clinically put together a contribution of 85 to cross the line. It was the first time all day that the consistent 22-year-old from Wishaw, near Glasgow, had been ahead.
"In my mind Stephen's still the best player in the business when he clicks, so of course this result is very satisfying indeed," Higgins said. He is seeded to meet Hendry again in the semi-finals of the Embassy World Championship which begins on Saturday.
"Stephen is the player I have admired most in recent times, so it's brilliant to beat him in a major final. This has got to be good with the Crucible just around the corner because it might have put some seeds of doubt in his mind.
"I felt good all through the match and even though Stephen kept going ahead I never thought I wasn't in contention.
"He didn't fire on all cylinders, and I got stronger as the day went on."Reuse content