A FIGHTING friend inspired Mark Williams to deliver a knockout punch to land the PowerHouse UK Snooker Championship in a toe-to-toe battle which went the full distance at York's Barbican Centre.

After capturing his first title in Britain for 26 months, the 27-year-old provisional world No 1 revealed that fellow Welshman Joe Calzaghe retaining the World Boxing Organisation super-middleweight crown in Newcastle on Saturday night had spurred his own performance last night.

Williams beat Irishman Ken Doherty 10-9 in a dogged, gruelling duel in which play lasted a few seconds short of four hours 45 minutes and ended at 11.12pm.

"After I beat Peter Ebdon in the semi-final on Saturday night I went back to my hotel and watched the Calzaghe fight on television," said Williams. "His victory inspired me for the final and I wanted to make it a Welsh double triumph for Christmas.

"Calzaghe and me are not bad friends and he sent me a message before the snooker final wishing me good luck."

Williams was in great potting form to crush world champion Ebdon 9-3 for the right to take on Doherty in the final.

From 3-2 down yesterday afternoon Williams hit back to lead the Irishman 5-3. An awesomely magnificent long pot on green in the eighth frame set him up to snatch a two-frame lead going into the climax to the two-week long tournament.

Doherty won the evening's first three frames to lead 6-5. Williams fired back with a superb 119 break to level the match, the only century break of a final containing many superb long pots and lots of brilliant positional play but strewn with errors and glaring misses in several scrappy frames.

Williams went two ahead at 9-7 with winning breaks of 74 and then 78 in the 15th and 16th frames, but Doherty kept his hopes alive by winning a scrappy 17th and shooting an impressive 79 break in the 18th to take the match to a final frame decider.

At 28-17 ahead Doherty had a disastrous shot which saw the white roll into a pocket and open the way for Williams to finish the job with a 70 break and the Irishman conceded.

"I am feeling drained. That match took a lot out of me," said Williams, adding that he owes a great deal to former world champion Terry Griffiths, who has been coaching him for the past few weeks.

"If it had not been for Terry Griffiths I would not have won.

"I went to see Terry after the LG Cup or maybe the British Open and he has helped me a lot. He has helped me with my mind. I owe him a big thank-you."

A disappointed Doherty, beaten in the UK final for the second successive year, said; "It was a great match, a pulsating final with a lot of tension.

"I misjudged a shot in that final frame and he took advantage and he's going home with the trophy and I'm not. It is disappointing to lose. But I'll bounce back."

Updated: 13:01 Monday, December 16, 2002