Williams edges Higgins in Crucible classic

Mark Williams held off a brilliant John Higgins fightback to become the oldest winner for 40 years at the World Snooker Championship, clinching an 18-16 victory in a thrilling Crucible classic.

Williams led by seven frames after taking the first four on Monday but saw Higgins roar back with a series of sensational clearances, closing from 14-7 to 15-15 in this clash between two members of the sport's 'Class of '92'.

But the always laidback Williams held his nerve to win three of the next four and leave Higgins to count the cost of slow starts on both days of the final.

The 43-year-old adds the 2018 title to his previous victories in 2000 and 2003, becoming the oldest champion since fellow Welshman Ray Reardon won the last of his six world crowns in 1978 at the age of 45.

"Last year I watched this in a caravan having some beers. I just can't believe it," Williams told BBC Sport. "You have to expect a comeback from John Higgins, when you are 50-60 in front he is the best at coming back."

For Higgins, the defeat is a demoralising second in a row in the World Championship final, having been beaten by Mark Selby to the trophy in 2017, and he misses out once more on pulling level with Ronnie O'Sullivan - the third member of that feted group who turned professional in 1992 - on five titles.

The pressure was written all over the face of Higgins as he struggled to feed off the meagre scraps left to him in the early frames by Williams, who glided confidently around the table, undaunted by the finish line as it edged into view.

The mid-session interval arrived with Higgins yet to get a frame on the board for the day but, as was the case on Sunday, he took the first after the players re-emerged, making a break of 67 to halt Williams' run of consecutive frame victories at seven.

Higgins stole the next with the help of a magnificent long red and an equally impressive clearance from 65-4 down - a rare show of frustration from Williams as he slapped the table following the demise of his own break.

The Scot appeared to have dragged some form from somewhere and got 80 points deep into a 147 attempt as he hit double figures at 14-10, but Williams claimed the important last frame of the afternoon.

Higgins kicked off the final session of the championship with the highest break of the match - a 131 - and a pair of masterful clearances saw him pinch the next two after Williams broke down short of frame ball.

Williams got a taste of his own medicine as Higgins completed a clean sweep of the pre-interval frames, and his failure to punish a missed pink to the middle allowed his opponent to pull level for the first time since 7-7.

He survived a missed red to the middle in the next to move back in front at 16-15 and the thrill of the chase appeared to have taken its toll on Higgins, Williams moving one away from the title with his second ton.

Higgins was not done, however. A missed pink from Williams at 63 up - the ball that could have won him the final - let Higgins in to steal another frame by two points with a 65 clearance.

But Williams, who contemplated retirement at the end of last season before being persuaded by wife Joanne to play on, produced a break of 69 in the next and, although Higgins came back to the table after a missed brown to the corner, one more red was enough for the Welshman to edge a thrilling finale.

 

Mark Williams 18-16 John Higgins: 23-75, 15-65, 35-72, 60-70, 120-4, 0-133, 98-0, 82-21, 46-81, 75-31, 127-8, 12-76, 85-9, 123-15, 0-123, 35-64, 43-80, 5-98, 19-73, 0-126, 7-63- 92-29, 76-65, 80-0, 8-84, 131-1, 68-58, 82-47, 91-0, 67-47, 0-74, 14-104, 65-63, 0-71

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