Apparently suffering after his marathon semi-final win over Ding Junhui, as he lined up against the four-time champion Higgins, Selby looked off the pace, depleted, in short as if he were being coached by Claudio Ranieri.
Selby joins illustrious company in Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, and Ronnie O'Sullivan who have each achieved the feat in the past, and he also moves into joint sixth on the all-time champion's list in the modern era with John Spencer.
Demonstrating the kind of steel for which the host city is renowned, the 33-year-old put a ugly first day behind him but was forced to contend with late controversy and the sheer cussedness of John Higgins en route to a tense 18-15 victory.
Indeed so slow was play - no surprise as their previous world championship meeting the 2007 final provided the latest finish in the tournament's history - the last frame was held over for the final session of the best of 35 frames contest. Building on this, the Scottish player established a commanding 6-2 lead at the end of the first session.
The interval was a welcome break for Higgins, who first won the World Championship 19 years ago in 1998.
Selby found a red but left Higgins with a frame-winning chance that was gobbled up for an 8-3 lead.
Such sessions from world No. 1 Selby are rare, and for Higgins it was important he took full advantage, so by edging frame eight it struck a major blow, ahead of the evening resumption.
Here is a transcript of the conversation involving Verhaas, Selby and Higgins.
No player has come from further behind to win at the Crucible than the eight-frame lead Dennis Taylor afforded Steve Davis in the 1985 final, and when Higgins nudged 10-4 ahead, not only did Selby look exhausted, but the front-running Scot was clearly relishing his task. "To have three world titles is unbelievable and to be one of only four players to defend it is something I could only dream of", added Selby.
"I've been trying to think of reasons he won't win it and I can't come up with any".
"I think John went to bed that night thinking he'd let one go", Selby said.
John Higgins shows his disappointment at a missed shot against Mark Selby.
Higgins expects the Englishman to dominate world snooker "for the foreseeable future", and believes he is the foremost threat to Stephen Hendry's record haul of seven world titles. "That was the big, big ball and I missed it".
Selby recently passed a two-year milestone in his unbroken run at number one, and began the final as favourite to lift the trophy and £375,000 top prize.
Selby then wrapped up victory with another nerveless break of 75. He was really strong in the final session and plays such a tough game.
"He was too good on the day".