Birmingham catering manager Niki Evans has narrowly missed out on a spot in next weekend's X Factor final after being voted off the ITV1 talent show.

The 34-year-old had largely impressed the judges with her two performances on the night but was unable to win the hearts of the public, leaving Leon Jackson, Same Difference and Rhydian Roberts to contest the final.

The over-25s contestant had been an early favourite to win thanks to her emotional first appearance on the show, in which she revealed she had discovered an X Factor application form intended for her in her deceased father's belongings.

The mother-of-two performed Fleetwood Mac's Songbird as her first effort last night, a choice judge Sharon Osbourne opined was "too laid back" for such a late stage of the competition.

And while Dannii Minogue called the performance beautiful, Simon Cowell replied: "I call it more pretty than beautiful".

Her second performance however, of Whitney Houston's One Moment in Time, wowed the judges, with Simon calling it "the perfect song - a brilliant, brilliant performance".

"You meant every word, you look like a star, you sang like a star," he added.

Niki's mentor Louis Walsh commented: "If there is any justice, the people of Birmingham will pick up the phone and call for you... Niki you deserve to be in the final of the competition."

But the public opted for Scottish crooner Leon, brother-and-sister duo Same Difference and show favourite Rhydian to battle it out in next weekend's final, sending Niki home.

She told host Dermot O'Leary: "I feel absolutely fantastic. I want to thank everybody, they've just been fantastic.

"I'd love to thank Louis for picking me, and Simon and Sharon and Dannii", she added.

09/12/2007 09:26:29