Belfast Telegraph

Pair to battle for X Factor crown

Sam Bailey and Nicholas McDonald will tonight battle it out to be crowned this year's X Factor winner.

The pair reached the final after dreadlock-haired teenager Luke Friend received the fewest votes from the public when the three finalists performed in front of 10,000 people at Wembley Arena last night.

After the result, Friend told presenter Dermot O'Leary: "It was absolutely mental. I know everyone thought I was the underdog sometimes... but I got here and this is absolutely amazing."

Louis Walsh, Friend's mentor on the show, said the 17-year-old from Devon had "something unique".

"He's going to have an amazing career, watch this space," the X Factor judge said.

Former prison warden Bailey, from the over 25s category, and 17-year-old McDonald will perform again tonight when the public will decide the winner of this year's series.

Bailey, 36, broke down in tears as she was told she through to the final, while McDonald dropped to his knees after hearing the result.

"I actually can not believe it," McDonald said. "To think I was just a normal boy from Scotland and now I'm in the X Factor final."

Bailey said: "I'm just so overwhelmed by the support. This has been last chance saloon for me for the whole process. It's been 20 years. It's been a long time coming and I've finally got here so thank you so much."

The final three opened last night's show with a performance of Lifted by Naughty Boy featuring Emeli Sandi, before McDonald's version of Robbie Williams' Candy was criticised by judge Gary Barlow.

The Take That front-man, who co-wrote the song, told the teenager: "Your strength is your voice. That song choice didn't show your voice. I understand you want to be versatile but not tonight."

Fellow judge Nicole Scherzinger disagreed, claiming the student from Motherwell had transformed from a "Scottish lamb" to a "Scottish lion".

Bailey, dressed in blue jumpsuit, wowed the judges with her performance of Lady Gaga's Edge of Glory, with Walsh telling the mother-of-two from Leicestershire that she has a "world class recording voice".

"I think this is your weekend. Incredible performance," Barlow added.

"You sang the pants off that song," Scherzinger said.

Bailey told O'Leary afterwards: "This is amazing, this is what I was meant to do all these years ago. I'm up here now and I'm not going to let go."

The performance prompted an emotional outburst from Bailey's grandmother Rita in the crowd as she spoke with presenter Caroline Flack.

"I'm sorry I look so old and I don't want to embarrass you," she said.

"I'm so proud of you. I love to hear you sing. I could listen to you forever and a day."

Friend's first solo performance of We Are Young by Fun also attracted criticism from Barlow, who told him: "I hope everybody votes on the choruses not the verses."

The finalists each duetted with established stars, with Friend and Ellie Goulding performing the singer's hit Anything Could Happen.

"He's such an amazing, cool, lovely person," Goulding said later. "I'm really rooting for him."

McDonald duetted with former Westlife singer Shane Filan as they sang the Irish boy band's hit Flying Without Wings.

Bailey was joined on stage by Scherzinger, dressed in gold floor-length dress, as they performed And I Am Telling You from the musical Dreamgirls.

Achieving a standing ovation from the remaining judges, Bailey said: "This is the highlight of the night for me."

US star Beyonce recorded a video for the show to announce that this year's X Factor winner will support her on the UK leg of her Mrs Carter tour in February.

As the X Factor celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, some of the show's most infamous contestants including Jedward, Kitty Brucknell, Rylan Clark and Wagner performed a medley of songs.

The show also included performances from singer-songwriter Tom Odell and The Killers.

The bookmakers have made Bailey the runaway favourite to win this year with William Hill offering odds of 1/7, ahead of McDonald at 9/2.

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