Ella Henderson has been eliminated from X Factor in what Scherzinger described as a "great tragedy" and host Dermot O'Leary dubbed "one of the biggest shocks we've ever had on the results show", The 16-year-old last girl standing, who was hailed a "golden goddess", was in the bottom two with the show's other favourite James Arthur.
With two votes each after the sing-off, the decision was taken to deadlock and moments later Ella's fate was sealed as she received the fewest public votes.
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Visibly emotional, the 16-year-old said: "This year, the talent on the show is incredible. Everyone deserves to be on this show. I wouldn't be where I am now without this show. (I loved) meeting people, the contestants are great. I love you all. I loved performing on this stage. I've loved every minute of it. I've grown so much."
Ella's mentor Tulisa Contostavlos described the young star's exit from the show as "absolutely ridiculous", but all judges were in a state of shock when the bottom two performers were revealed.
With the show's controversial contestant Rylan Clark safely through, with Union J and Jahmene Douglas, the crowd booed loudly when Christopher Maloney was also confirmed for next week - leaving Ella and James to battle it out for the remaining place.
With the audience's booing continuing, Dermot O'Leary said: "Well, you can tell already from the studio it's a shock." Adding: "One of the biggest shocks we've ever had on the results show."
Commenting on the two acts who found themselves in the bottom two, Nicole Scherzinger said: "Whatever happens tonight it will be a great tragedy for the show."
Louis Walsh said: "I'm in shock. I thought these were two finalists." Meanwhile, Gary Barlow, who has often encouraged viewers to vote for the best singers on the show, said: "I always knew it was going to come to this. There isn't anything between these two acts."
For the sing-off, Ella chose Daniel Bedingfield's If You're Not The One, while James performed an acoustic rendition of Alicia Keys' debut single Fallin' on his guitar.
As soon as it was announced that James and Ella were in the bottom two, celebrities expressed their shock and horror on Twitter. The Saturdays' Vanessa White tweeted: "The public you are out of order for doing this right now..."
Leona Lewis, winner of X Factor's 2006 show said: "No way should Ella and James be singing against each other!" And Strictly Come Dancing contestant Denise Van Outen wrote: "X Factor has become a joke."