John Higgins won the Welsh Open for a record fourth time on Sunday after a 9-3 victory over Ben Woollaston in Cardiff.
It marks a long-awaited return to the winners enclosure for the Scot, who must have sometimes wondered in the past couple of years if he would ever taste the success of major silverware again.
You had to go back to the 2013 Wuxi Classic for Higgins’ last appearance in a ranking event final, and further still to the 2012 Shanghai Masters for his previous title triumph.
Victory at the Motorpoint Arena is the four-time world champion’s 26th ranking event of an illustrious 23-year professional career.
His opponent, 27 year-old Woollaston, was contesting only his maiden final at this level and this was evident throughout a contest that he was never really able to produce his best under the extreme pressures involved.
The Leicester man, full of support with current world champion Mark Selby and referee wife Tatiana willing him on, battled well in the opening session but was left to rue a significant piece of misfortune in the last frame before the break.
At 4-3 down, Woollaston made a break of 59 and laid Higgins in a snooker, only for the latter to fluke the escape and clear the table for a 5-3 advantage.
After the restart, Higgins controlled the clash and won all four frames to emerge victorious in front of an appreciative Welsh audience.
At 39, Higgins has become one of the elder statesmen on the tour but, along with the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams, who at the same age rose to prominence at a similar time together in the 1990s, continue to show their class on the Main Tour.
Higgins might not be able to stretch a level of consistency for as long as he was once able to do – dominating entire seasons in spells – but he is still well capable of enjoying sporadic glory and accepting the plaudits on the centre stage.
As a winner, this has been the case for his entire career and the ‘Wizard of Wishaw’ will always be dangerous when he manages to manoeuvre his way into the business end of a competition.
With the busiest period of the season on the horizon, and the World Championship less than two months from now, Higgins is coming into form at just the right time and will certainly be seeking further success before the campaign’s conclusion.
For Woollaston, it will count as a disappointment that he was unable to do himself justice in a one-sided final but he excelled in his victories over Mark Allen, Ali Carter and in particular Williams in the last four.
It was refreshing to see a young unheralded player feature in a big ranking showdown, breaking up the mould of regular star competitors who make up almost every final on the calendar.
Meanwhile, the move to Cardiff must be seen as a relatively successful one overall, with sizable crowds throughout the week flocking to the capital.
That said, the first few days, with the short best-of-seven format and so many players at the arena, felt very much like a Players Championship tournament, which definitely tarnishes some of the prestige the third oldest running ranking event harbours.