Gutted John Higgins admits he’s only got three years left at snooker’s top table after his ten-year wait for a Triple Crown trophy went on.

The Wizard of Wishaw fell to a narrow 10-8 defeat against Yan Bingtao in Sunday’s Masters final and is yet to claim silverware of any kind since 2018.

His last major title – World Championship, UK Championship and Masters – came at the Crucible in 2011 and Higgins, the world No.6, has endured a barren recent spell on the behind closed doors circuit.

The four-time world champion cut a dejected figure after his late night defeat in Milton Keynes and accepts the clock is rapidly ticking towards the end of his career.

The 45-year-old said: “We’ll wait and see.

“I’m 45, 46 in May, so you’re thinking maybe three or four more years at the top end of the game. I’ll put my heart and soul into it.

“Every credit to him – he played superb. He’s such a tough competitor to play against. For someone so young, he’s got everything. He’s a worthy winner.

“He’s a great player – he was fantastic. He’s got such an incredible all-round game.

“I had my chances and I’m sick, because I should have gone 6-3 in front. I should have been in control to go 8-5 in front.

“I had a couple of chances in the last frame there, so I’m gutted. But every credit to him, it’s a brilliant achievement winning it at such a young age, so congratulations to Yan.

“He’s the first one to break through after Ding [Junhui], in winning one of the massive tournaments. I’m sure that will spur a lot of the other Chinese boys on.

“If Yan can do it, they would love to do it. It was a great win for him.”

Sunday marked a true snooker generation game as 25 years separated the two players at the Marshall Arena.

Two-time champion Higgins opened up a 5-3 lead at the end of the afternoon session as breaks of 98, 62 and 53 put him halfway towards a thrilling Masters hat-trick.

But world No.11 Yan had other ideas, levelling at 5-5 before then pegging the Scot back again after he went on to lead 7-5.

A pulsating finale unfolded in the Buckinghamshire bubble but Higgins, last crowned Masters champion in 2006, missed a string of opportunities and allowed the ‘Tiger’ to clinch the coveted Paul Hunter Trophy.

And it also secured him a lucrative £250,000 payday as the Sheffield-based talent marked himself out as snooker’s chief rising star.

Yan won the 2019 Riga Masters and was competing in just his fourth final since turning professional in the Sunday night showpiece.

For Higgins, it marked his 84th tournament final but he was unable to cap it with a tenth Triple Crown trophy.

Yan has now beaten Higgins on four of the seven occasions they’ve met and the Scot, who still banked £115,000 from his run at the tournament, is tipping the Asian for greatness.

The 30-time ranking event winner, who scooped £15,000 for the tournament’s highest break of 145, added: “I’ve played him over the last few years, and he’s not really got much to learn in the tactical department.

“His scoring as well – he’s going to be around maybe longer than I’ve been around. He’s about the same age as my boy, so good luck to him.

“He could definitely be a world champion – without a shadow of a doubt. China’s very lucky to have Yan as a player.”

The London Masters was live on Eurosport and Eurosport app from Jan 10