Higgins sealed his passage with a defeat of fellow Scot Jamie Burnett 6-4 at the Barbican Centre on Monday afternoon. The 38-year-old world No.11 came from 4-3 down to win three straight frames in York and claim the match in which neither player was at their fluid best.
The Wishaw native, who last lifted the UK title in 2010, conceded that he would have to improve in order to compete with the world's best in the latter stages. But he was also eager to point out that the tricky playing conditions were contributing to his diminished ability to put together big breaks in York.
"I'm through so obviously I'm delighted with that but the only long I ball I think I potted was a crunch one," he said. "That was the only good pot I did all day. I feel great, winning, but it was bad. You play some silly shots that you think years ago you would never have played the way you do. It really is just soul destroying.
"You think you can raise your game but the table as well - it is so tight. That is twice I have played on that table and it is so tight. The old players would never had done 10 or 20 [breaks], when you see them play. They are probably sitting watching and giving you dog's abuse. When you see the buckets they used in the 80s, these guys couldn't make 30 or 40."
Burnett was not overly impressed with his display against Higgins either after he surrendered the lead to his compatriot on three separate occasions. "That is not John at his best and when he doesn't play at his best . . . if I can't beat him like that I'm not going to beat him, put it that way," said Burnett.
"To beat Ronnie [O'Sullivan] and Neil Robertson he will need to play a bit better than he did but John is the type of player who can come out and win the tournament, he is very strong mentally. I have nothing but respect for him but he is certainly not playing at the level he used to and I think it is just confidence.
"He is a lot better player than the way he played there and I should have put him away. Regardless of the fact we're friends, you treat him the same as you treat anybody else. It's to ugh playing someone who is that resilient sometimes. Some guys have a dodgy temperament and you can get at them but he doesn't do that at all."
Graeme Dott joined Higgins in the second round late last night with a impressive 6-3 victory over Ali Carter. The former world champion pocketed breaks of 99, 49, 68, 39 and 41 as he led throughout against former Crucible finalist Carter.
However, the other Scots struggled. Teenager Scott Donaldson exited the tournament after he lost his third-round match 6-3 to world No.17 Joe Perry. "I take a lot of positives out of this week," he said. "Now I need to get in the top 64. We'll see how it goes - I'm pretty modest.
Anthony McGill slumped to a 6-2 defeat at the hands of world No.10 Stuart Bingham. "I played awesome in the first two rounds," he said. "In the first round I was 3-0 down so if you had offered me a third round at that point, I would have taken it. I played really well but I got out in the arena and I just couldn't handle it. I had more than enough chances. I just gave it away really, in my opinion."