Cheryl Cole was unusually lost for words when her protegee Laura White – who had been thought to be one of the favourites – was voted off The X Factor last night.
The 21-year-old from Bolton went head-to-head with Spaniard Ruth Lorenzo, 25, after coming in the bottom two of the public phone voting.
The casting vote fell to Simon Cowell and his decision prompted a furious look from Cheryl.
Shock: After being tipped to win, Cheryl Cole’s protegee Laura White was voted off after a sing-off with Ruth Lorenzo
Saturday’s Mariah Carey-themed show had got off to a bad start for the Girls Aloud singer, who found out just hours before the live broadcast that her contestant Diana Vickers, 17, was too ill to sing.
After being struck down with laryngitis, a specialist told her she could risk damaging her voice forever if she performed.
And it had seemed to be going well for Laura as she performed Endless Love on the piano as well as vocals – the only X Factor contestant to play an instrument.
Despite praise from most of the judges, albeit Cowell who said the arrangement ‘wasn’t your style’, Laura failed to win enough public votes.
After her first performance, he said: ‘I wanted you to get your own style back. It was one of your weakest, it was a very hotel bar kind of performance. I didn’t like the arrangement. It wasn’t you.’
Laura’s parents collected her from The X Factor house following the surprise vote
‘You really do have the flu’: Simon made a jab at Cheryl on one of her many disagreements with her fellow judges on Saturday night.
She sang Somewhere Over The Rainbow – a contrast to Ruth’s Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – but it wasn’t enough to save her.
Simon said: ‘You were not the worst two singers tonight so I don’t know what went wrong. Both of you sung your hearts out just then. I like both girls.’
Despite his positive words, he chose to send Laura home, prompting a furious look from Cheryl at his right.
As expected, Cheryl wouldn’t send her own contestant home: ‘You both sang well fantastically. No option for me I’m gonna have to send home Ruth.’
Dannii also saved her own contestant Ruth: ‘It’s been such a tense night. You two pulled off beautiful performances.’
Even though it was expected Dannii would save her own protegee, Cheryl gave her a look of fury.
X Shocker: A furious Cheryl sulked as Laura graciously accepted her defeat
It was down to Louis for the deciding vote and he stunned the audience and devastated Cheryl and Laura when he picked the latter.
He mused: ‘It’s an incredible standard. I like both girls.’
After Louis’s vote, this week’s surviving contestant Ruth broke down in tears and appeared more upset than Laura.
Hugging Laura, she was heard sobbing: ‘I’m really sorry, I love you lots.’
She was repeatedly told to leave the stage by host Dermot O’Leary, but wouldn’t go.
As a stunned Cheryl joined Laura on stage, she was asked how she felt about Laura’s departure, but refused to speak and shook her head in disbelief.
Laura had been touted as one of the favourites to win and had been given good odds by bookies.
Nerves: Dannii Minogue hugs her protegee Ruth Lorenzo (r) as Dermot chats to Cheryl and Laura (l) before the sing-off
During the two episodes, Mariah performed two songs and also spent time with the contestants during rehearsals on Friday.
Earlier in the evening, Ruth’s performance of My All had a mixed response from judges.
Louis said: ‘You always give it your all, but I don’t think your connecting with the people. It was more Mariah Scary than Mariah Carey.’
Despite Laura and Ruth coming bottom two, Daniel had the least positive comments from the judges – even though he was praised for his improvement.
The father-of-three sung Open Arms, much to the delight of Cheryl and Dannii, who were full of positive comments for him.
Louis said: ‘It was so much better than last week. The song choice suited your limited voice range. Not in a million years are you going to win.’
Knockin’ On Luck’s Door: Ruth managed to stay in the competition after receiving the deciding vote from Louis
Ailing: Diana Vickers, 17, missed out on this week’s show because she had laryngitis
Cheryl added: Someone’s got their Mojo back. That was my best performance of yours.’
Irish teen Eoghan Quigg, 16, kicked off the show with Anytime You Need A Friend.
Simon said: ‘I find it quite astonishing that you’re 16 and you’re singing in front of Mariah. I think you’d have a hit record with this song. That was great, you’re staying in the competition.
During his rehearsal session with Mariah earlier in the week, she told him: ‘You have such a pretty voice on the high breathy stuff.’
One Sweet Night: JLS, with mentor Louis Walsh, were told by Simon Cowell they would be in the final after their performance of One Sweet Day
After coming in the bottom last week, Rachel Hylton’s confidence had been shaken and she revealed she was choosing her own song this week.
She sang Against All Odds and wowed the judges.
Louis said: ‘I was glad I saved you. you’re getting a really hard time on this competition and its not fair. You have talent.’
Rachel, 26, started weeping as Cheryl followed with: ‘You seemed really emotional tonight. I was glad you chose your own song.
‘I think you’ve had a big confidence knock. I wanna see that spark back.’
Praise: Simon told Eoghan he could ‘have a hit record with this song’
Cutting: Daniel was told ‘the song choice suited your limited voice range’ by Louis
After Rachel’s performance, footage of Diana struggling with laryngitis was shown, including an image of the ailing 17-year-old cuddled up in bed with full eyeliner and lip-gloss on.
After seeing a specialist, X Factor producers decided to give her permission to miss this week and carry on next week.
Cheryl said: ‘She is absolutely devastated. I’m gutted for her.’
Next up were Louis’s boy band JLS who sang the Mariah and Boyz II Men duet One Sweet Day.
Emotional: Rachel Hylton was determined not to be in the bottom two after singing Against All Odds
Louis quoted the new U.S. President in his remarks: ‘You’ve got it all, in the words of Barack Obama, can you win the competition, yes you can.’
Simon enthused: ‘That was an impossibly hard song to sing. It was a great performance, The image is fantastic, the chemistry is fantastic. I’ll be amazed if you guys don’t reach the final.’
The final contestant of the evening was Alexandra Burke, 20, who sang the power ballad Without You.
The judges were universal in their praise, with Simon saying: ‘I love your attitude, your enthusiasm, we don’t find you whining or complaining. It was outstandingly good.’
Star power: Mariah Carey showed the contestants how the professionals do it
Powerful: Alexandra bravely tackled Without You and amazed the judges