John Higgins 16-18 Mark Williams: Welsh Potting Machine wins World Championship for the first time in 15 years

Williams held off a late Higgins response to become the first player to win the competition in their 40's since Ray Reardon in 1978.

John Higgins 16-18 Mark Williams: Welsh Potting Machine wins World Championship for the first time in 15 years
The 15 year gap is the longest for a world champion in snooker history (photo: Getty Images / Tom Shaw)

Mark Williams won his third world title after leading for all but two frames against a spirited John Higgins.

Cutting a different figure from the man that almost retired from the sport last year, Williams played with humour and freedom throughout the competition to win his first title since 2015.

Welsh wizard storms ahead

Williams started the third session 10-7 ahead after ending the first day with three consecutive frames following a comeback from Higgins who initially fell 4-0 and 5-1 behind. The Welshman then took that momentum from the end of Sunday's action into day two as he produced fireworks from the outset.

A fluked red got Williams off the mark in frame 18 before doing enough to secure another tally on the scoreboard with a break of 61, including a pot with his eyes closed - a party piece he was successful with earlier in the contest. That was then followed by a winning 56 in the next frame, enough to open a five-frame lead for the first time in the final.

As Higgins continued to miss pots you would expect him to down, like he did in the opening session of the match, Williams continued to take advantage and breaks of 69 and 56 were followed by a 52 as the Welshman stormed into a 14-7 lead.

Both players missed chances in frame 22 straight after the interval but it was Higgins who recomposed himself first to produce a break of 67, twice as many as he scored in the opening four frames, to reignite his final hopes. The Scotsman then continued to show his grit to recover from 65-0 behind in the next frame to produce a 72 and continue to claw his way back into the contest.

Last year's runner-up continued to build momentum and was working towards the first Crucible final maximum in history before the break closed out on 80. Yet Williams recovered with two crucial mini breaks to secure a 15-10 lead at the end of the session and what seemed to be one hand on the trophy.

 

Higgins comes back with an incredible spell of snooker

All the talk going into the evening was about how soon the contest would be concluded. Yet Higgins is somewhat of a comeback king and had already clawed back problematic positions twice in the final. If he needed any sort of confidence boost, he got just that as started play with a break of 131.

Then came two frames that showed what the veteran is all about. In both battles he found himself substantially behind, 58-1 and 48-0, before producing thrilling clearances of 67 and 82 to move within two frames of his fellow Class of '92 graduate.

A break of 52 then ensured Higgins would wrap up all four frames before the interval as the clock ticked past 30 minutes since Williams' last pot who missed an opportunity when that break fell apart.

The Welsh Potting Machine stands firm for title number three

Williams looked to have composed himself as he made 47 in the first frame back at the table. Yet a miss on a straightforward red opened up the table for his old friend who cleared up again from a distant position, making 62 in the process and drawing level at 15-15 from 14-7 behind.

Higgins had produced similar hard work to draw level in the second session of the contest but let his form slip and he did the same in frame 31. Two missed pots allowed Williams the opportunity to secure his first frame of the evening and restore his advantage.

The momentum and confidence had clearly shifted as Higgins missed what should have been a straightforward pot before Williams potted his 2,000th ball of the competition on his way to a century contribution, taking him within one frame of the title.

Williams looked to have title number three in the bag but slipped up on the pink after making 63, allowing Higgins to steal frame 33 with a break of 65 to keep the final alive. Yet the 43-year did just enough in the next frame, contributing 70 to conclude what six-time world champion Steve Davis described to the BBC as "the greatest final I have ever seen."