Six-times World Championship finalist White looked down and out trailing 4-0 to the 1997 world champion living up to his 'Crafty Ken' moniker, but produced some magical matchplay snooker to secure a victory at a venue that has haunted him.
At the age of 58, White remains a special talent and was a fully deserving winner of the event having compiled 130 earlier in the day in a 4-2 win over his 1990s Crucible nemesis Stephen Hendry in the last four behind closed doors due to the pandemic.
"Because I'm playing well, I knew if I find a bit of form and score, I've got a chance," said White.
"Ken let me off a couple of times. He should have won the fifth frame as well to win 5-0, but once I got that frame, I settled a bit.
"Towards the end, I felt really good because I'm playing well in practice. I know my form is there. I just knew that he had won four frames, and I could have won a couple of them.
"It is a bit like football, a game of two halves sometimes.
"I turned my phone off at the interval. I knew that I hadn't played in those first four frames, but luckily enough for me Ken missed a couple of balls to wrap up the match."
'The Whirlwind' pieced together only 31 in the first four frames as Doherty rattled home breaks of 93 and 56 in dominating fashion, but the mid-session interval produced a dramatic transformation of the narrative.
With Doherty visibly getting tighter, former UK and Masters holder White raised his game several levels finishing matters in style against the faltering Dubliner with runs of 79 and 85 enabling him to defend the title he won last year with a 5-3 victory over Darren Morgan.
White collects a cheque for £25,000 and a place in the Champion of Champions event later in the year.
He dedicated his victory to his friend and Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, who has been spending his time in lockdown focusing on his passion for painting.
"It's a fantastic win. I feel a bit gutted for Ken because I've been here, I've been miles in front and got beat. But he'll be back and this just builds my confidence up and makes me keep practising," said White, who turned professional in 1980.
"I'm shattered to be fair. I feel that I still love practising. I'm reborn with it again after 10 or 15 years playing without having any chance, but I'm back enjoying it. That's snooker."
Doherty put a brave face on his defeat after missing a makeable pink with the rest to complete a 5-2 win and said: "That's snooker. It can be a great sport, but can be very cruel at times. For me, it is very disappointing.
"I had a couple of chances and started to panic a little bit."
First round results
- Ken Doherty (Ire) 4-3 Rodney Goggins (Ire)
- Patrick Wallace (NI) 2-4 Darren Morgan (Wal)
- Jimmy White (Eng) 4-1 Joe Johnson (Eng)
- Aaron Canavan (Jer) 4-3 Leo Fernandez (Ire)
- Stephen Hendry (Sco) 4-3 Nigel Bond (Eng)
- Wayne Cooper (Eng) 4-2 Gary Filtness (Eng)
- Michael Judge (Ire) 4-1 Dennis Taylor (NI)
- Tony Knowles (Eng) 0-4 Peter Lines (Eng)
- Stephen Hendry (Sco) 4-1 Aaron Canavan (Jer)
- Jimmy White (Eng) 4-1 Peter Lines (Eng)
- Wayne Cooper (Eng) 1-4 Michael Judge (Ire)
- Ken Doherty (Ire) 4-2 Darren Morgan (Wal)
- Stephen Hendry (Sco) 2-4 Jimmy White (Eng)
- Ken Doherty (Ire) 4-1 Michael Judge (Ire)
- Jimmy White (Eng) 5-4 Ken Doherty (Ire)