It was a difficult match for the defending champion, who trailed 2-1 and 3-2. A break of 74 helped him level at 3-3 and he won the seventh frame after Higgins, leading 41-39 and on a break of 33, missed a black off its spot.
Higgins, a former world masters junior champion said: 'I could make excuses all night, but nerves got to me on that black.
'Had I won the frame I could have won the match. But I'm pleased I played well because at the back of my mind I really didn't want to get white-washed.'
White, who had won two of his previous three matches in the deciding ninth frame, finally made sure of victory with a break of 81 in the eighth frame.
'I played ten times better than I have done so far,' White said, 'but I've got to try and cut out the mistakes. Steve Davis thrives on situations like that.'
Stephen Hendry beat Mark Bennett 5-0 earlier in the day to set up a semi-final with James Wattana. He needed only 89 minutes to finish off his match with the Welshman.
Bennett, the world No 27, scored only nine points in the final three frames with Hendry collecting 366. His 135 total clearance in the third was the eighth and highest century break of the televised stages.
WICKES HOME IMPROVEMENTS BRITISH OPEN (Derby) Quarter-finals: S Hendry (Sco) bt M Bennett (Wal) 5-0; J White (Eng) bt J Higgins (Sco) 5-3.Reuse content