JOHN Higgins admitted to breathing a huge sigh of relief after coming through a tight second-round clash at the UK Snooker Championship.

The 39-year-old was ahead all the way through in the encounter with Jamie Cope at the York Barbican, and edged into the next round 6-4 after Cope's costly tenth-frame miss.

The former world No 1 and four-time world champion has won this competition three times, most recently in 2010, and now meets 2003 champion Matthew Stevens in a stellar round-three clash. And Higgins is hoping his confidence can continue to grow after struggling in recent years.

"I've been missing clearances and falling short recently, whereas the three or four years before that I was able to come through in those situations," said the Wizard of Wishaw. "Hopefully I can continue to do that into the second week here.

"I'm really relieved to come through because it looked like it was going to go 5-5 and my record in deciders in recent years has been pathetic to say the least.But Jamie missed and I managed to get in and complete a good clearance."

Higgins is now undefeated against world No 53 Cope in five meetings, and his record against Stevens reads almost as well with seven wins out of eight.

And the Lanarkshire man has credited another Scottish great for helping him regain his touch, although he was less impressed with the standard of the facilities.

"Graeme Dott noticed I was pulling the cue back far too far. He didn't tell me so I guess he doesn't like me very much, but I can thank Marcus Campbell who did," he joked.

"It is maybe just a little thing when I say too far, but when it was said to me I knew I was losing control and my timing wasn't correct. I thought that improved here and I am pleased with that.

"You are just looking for the little margins that can give you the kick start, so I will be back to the practice table with Marcus.

"The tables here are difficult, uncontrollable at times, which is really bad as it can make you start missing easy balls because you are not really sure how the cushions are going to react.

"To tell the truth, there are so many tables we play on the table fitters have an impossible job, as they don't have enough hours in the day to prepare all the tables we need for 128 players here.

"I think that is one of the points the top players are unhappy about. It is all right saying 128 players in a tournament, but the conditions have got to be good and my table was atrocious. But too often the complaints fall on deaf ears. The number of players entering here should be limited."

Meanwhile, there was more good news for Scottish snooker as Glasgow's Fraser Patrick continued his surge up the rankings and claimed the scalp of world No 22 Ryan Day.

The 29-year-old, ranked 84th, has been on scintillating form of late, making it to at least the third round in each of the last three European Tour events, playing himself into contention to secure a two-year Tour card as a result.

And the good times continued in York as Patrick beat Welshman Day 6-4 with stunning breaks of 139 and 73 in frames five and six respectively, proving to be the turning point as he stormed into the third round.

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