Akister's X Factor dream in tatters
There was high drama on the X Factor when the dreams of Paul Akister were shattered as he was eliminated from the talent show.
The 25-year-old from Lancashire was left holding back tears and struggling to speak after the judges were unable to choose between him and Jay James in the sing-off.
Akister was voted off by the public and his mentor Mel B was left gobsmacked by the decision, saying: "Are you kidding me? He is incredible. That is wrong, that is wrong."
Asked by host Dermot O'Leary how he felt, Akister could only shake his head and whisper, "I can't talk", before burying his head in Mel's shoulder.
He and James hugged, while the audience voiced their displeasure with a chorus of boos.
After being left in the bottom two, Akister had the audience in raptures with his touching version of Emeli Sande's Clown, before former Royal Navy officer James left Simon Cowell apparently on the verge of tears with his rendition of Eric Clapton's Tears In Heaven.
Simon and Louis, for once in rare agreement, voted to send home Akister while Mel and Cheryl showed female solidarity and opted to do away with James.
Their impasse meant the decision was handed back to the public - for the second week in a row - and Akister, who last year lost out at the judges' houses stage, was left broken-hearted after receiving the fewest votes.
After the sing-off Mel said: "For me this, based on what we have just heard right now, it's an absolute no-brainer. Paul you sang your heart out with such feeling, and what a song."
Simon said it was the best sing-off there had been so far, and that he was "slightly surprised" that it was Akister and James in the bottom two.
Backing his protege, he told James: "I've got to know you, I'm your mentor, you're a great guy, you're a dad, you've got a lot at stake here and this is kind of your last chance."
Cheryl chose to save Akister and send James home, telling him: "Paul, I think that's actually one of the best I have heard you sing throughout this competition."
Louis had the chance to make it a clear elimination for James, but was barely able to choose between the two men.
He said: "It was a brilliant sing-off, both guys were incredible. I have loved Paul from day one. Jay, you really stepped it up and that was really emotional. It was the best sing-off we've ever had. I can't decide, I'm going to have to send it to deadlock."
Earlier in the show chart sensation Sam Smith sang his new single, Like I Can, and the world's biggest band, One Direction, performed their new song Steal My Girl.
Band member Niall Horan then dropped hints about their forthcoming On The Road Again tour, suggesting UK and Ireland tour dates could be announced soon.