Higgins recovered from a 12-9 lead to win 18-15, the final frame climaxing in a snooker with two balls left on the table.
The Wizard of Wishaw returned to the game in November following a six-month ban given for not reporting an illegal approach from a bookmaker. Celebrating with his wife and children after the win at the Crucible, he became tearful when his father, who passed away in February, was named as an inspiration.
“It has been amazing, an unbelievable 12 months but it has been great,” he said. “It was a really tough match-play. I knew I had to come into the third session and play great, and I think I did that to get back into the match and make Judd think a little bit.
“He was the better player. He was playing a brand of snooker I have never seen before in my life. It was unbelievable the amount of long shots he was potting, it was incredible. It was great to watch - we have got the new sensation of the game.”
Meanwhile, 21-year-old Trump shared his experiences of the competition. “The support I have received has been unbelievable. From the start 17 days ago I was no-one really, but every game it has been building and building, and the fan base I have created is unbelievable.”
“It wasn’t enough this time but I will come back next year.”
Last night’s game has left Trump ninth in the world rankings.