Mark Williams won his third World Championship – 15 years after his last – by holding off John Higgins’ stunning fightback in a classic Crucible final.

Mark Williams

Williams, 43, won 18-16 to become the oldest champion since fellow Welshman Ray Reardon, who was 45 in 1978.

He won seven frames on the trot to take a 14-7 lead but Scot Higgins, 42, came back magnificently to take eight of the next nine and level at 15-15.

However, Williams responded in style to secure a famous victory.

The final was the closest since 2005 when Shaun Murphy beat Matthew Stevens by the same scoreline.

Williams claimed a record £425,000 at the Sheffield venue, taking his total prize money to £750,000 for the year, while Higgins’ wait for a fifth title continues.

“I was seriously thinking of giving up, but my wife Joanne said I can’t sleep in the house 24 hours a day.”

And after saying earlier in the tournament that he would speak to the media naked if he won the title, Williams walked into his news conference undressed apart from a towel.

Higgins misses out…again

For Higgins, it was a case of another missed opportunity. The Scot has now lost three finals, winning the last of his four titles in 2011 against Judd Trump.

He blew a 10-4 lead against Mark Selby last year, which he admitted could have been his best opportunity to add a fifth world crown and draw alongside O’Sullivan.

A stunning final session

Trailing 15-10 Higgins came out firing in the final session with a century and punished Williams for breaking down on 58 by compiling a 67 in response.

“To play John in a final is an experience in itself,” added Williams. “You’ve got to expect a comeback because when you’re 50 or 60 in front he’s the best I’ve ever seen at clearing up – and that includes Ronnie O’Sullivan.

“I was thinking: ‘I’m not going to get over the line here.’

“I knew if I didn’t get enough he was going to clear up again. But I’m over the moon.”