TV viewers were shocked to discover that Simon Cowell has both acts in next week's final after Ben Mills was voted off the show last night.

The gravely-voiced charge of judge Sharon Osborne polled fractionally less votes than his two rivals in the 16-24 category, ending the X Factor dream for the 26-year-old marquee construction worker.

It seems Ben's confidence, which at the beginning of the contest was sky-high, never quite recovered from his painful Abba covers midway through the live run.

His departure made his final performance on the show, a version of U2's I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, painfully apt.

But the plucky long-haired vocalist vowed to continue singing and follow his dreams of musical stardom.

His departure means next week's X Factor final will be between Leona Lewis and Ray Quinn, both mentored by Cowell. The grumpy judge has in the past been accused of pinning his hopes on shy Leona but he has also always supported cheesy crooner Ray. Now, either way, he has triumphed in the battle of the judges.

Viewers will get to choose between 17-year-old Ray, who relies on his cheeky smile as much as his vocals, and 21-year-old Leona, next Saturday.

No female has ever won the X Factor or any of its talent show equivalents, allegedly thanks to the voting power of teenage females. That trend may be about to change next week.

10/12/2006 10:02:15