Higginbothm scored twice to put Partick 3-2 ahead but was substituted with 10 minutes to go and could only look on as Motherwell snatched the win to keep up their challenge for European qualification.
After a dreary opening 30 minutes where neither side appeared capable of taming the heavy pitch or stubborn opposition, few in the Fir Park crowd would have predicted the exciting drama that unfolded in the second half.
It took a from goal from Chris Erskine, celebrating his second spell on loan at Firhill, seven minutes from half-time to spark the game into life.
That opener was cancelled out three minutes before the break when Keith Lasley's deflected shot not only levelled the scores but set the scene for a cracking second half.
And despite the home side stealing the lead through a controlled finish from Lionel Ainsworth six minutes after the restart, the second half looked like belonging to Higgnbotham and the Jags.
Higgnbotham, returning to the club where he was on loan last season, appeared to have a point to prove and was outstanding until he was replaced with 10 minutes remaining.
By that stage the Partick winger had equalised, confidently sending Gunnar Nielsen the wrong way from the penalty spot after Ainsworth tripped Aaron Taylor-Sinclair inside the box.
He followed that with a terrific solo run and finish from a tight angle to put Thistle 3-2 ahead with only 18 minutes remaining.
Third-placed Motherwell came storming back with two headed goals from John Sutton and Stephen McManus in the final six minutes to make it an impressive seven wins from their last nine games.
Higginbotham said: "It was heartbreaking to take but we are getting fed up making up hard luck stories.
"We have to wise up and start seeing games out or we are looking at being in the play-offs at the end of the season.
"It was a tiring pitch and I was pretty tired and the boss had to make changes but that's no excuse and we will need to work on our fitness at training."
Partick boss Alan Archibald is concerned about his team heading in the wrong direction after conceding the lead and precious points for the fourth time in the last five games.
He said: "I thought we were worth at least a point for the way we played, especially in the second half.
"We dealt with the Motherwell threat until the last five minutes.
"But our Achilles heel came back to haunt us again. For us to score three goals at Fir Park it should be enough to win the game as not many teams do that," added the Jags boss.
"We are naive and I'm fed up hearing the excuses. We need to man up. They are not young boys any more and when you are 3-2 up with five minutes left you have to manage the game.
"We had to make substitutions but Motherwell are very experienced and threw everything at us but we should be able to see it out."
Not surprisingly Stuart McCall was full of praise for his side's determination and fitness to go to the full 90 minutes, especially as they had been without a game for three weeks.
"I was delighted with the victory but we had a lot of heavy legs and looked a bit rusty at times," admitted the 'Well boss.
"The penalty gave them a lift and their third goal a real boost but we kept going until the end and we were delighted to get the three points.
"Although Aberdeen picked up another win we are looking at the teams around us like Dundee United and Inverness who are competing for third place and a European slot."
- Sports & Recreation