The Torquay sprinter had 7/100ths of a second to spare over Albury’s John Adams when the field hit the line ahead of an impending storm at JC Lowe Oval.
It was the third time Adams had finished runner-up at the $8000 Gift.
For Hignett it was just reward for a summer of near misses and two seasons of injury.
The 39-year-old, who was favourite when he was runner-up to Josh Ross at Stawell in 2005, was beaten on the line at Albury, finished third at Bendigo and was run out of the Ballarat Gift by the eventual winner.
Hignett, who was off the front and a handicap of 12 metres, made light of the narrow winning margin.
“These finishes are always close,” he said.
“I’ve been thereabouts all summer and its been hard off the front mark, when I’ve been beaten it has been the last step — you know you are in front, can hear them coming but it’s not like you can turn around.
“I thought I’d won at Albury and got beaten right on the line.”
The former Sydneysider said it was an honour to win at Yarrawonga.
“I’ve been coming up here since I moved down to Victoria in 2008,” he said.
“There is certainly some history to win the race and I enjoyed the celebrations afterwards.
“It was tough for John (Adams) — I think we have been racing each other for 15 years.”
Hignett’s win comes after two years battling injury.
He missed most of 2011-12 with a torn hamstring and battled a baffling injury last summer.
“I had neural pain that was coming out of my back and down into the hamstrings,” Hignett said.
“It felt like I was tearing a hamstring when I ran — it was a lot of pain and took a lot of work to get right.”
Hignett will now compete in the veterans’ 100 metres at the Stawell Gift next month.
“I’m off 3.25 metres and I don’t think the win will have any effect on that handicap,” he said.