Luke Friend has been voted out of the The X Factor, leaving Sam Bailey and Nicholas McDonald to fight it out in tomorrow's final. (15 December)

The very first auditionee of the series, 17- year-old Friend bowed out of the competition after a lacklustre performance that possibly cost him the coveted place in the final.

Demonstrating his usual composure even in defeat and while facing a 10,000 strong audience filling Wembley Arena, he reflected on the entire X Factor experience saying: "It's absolutely mental I got here and this is absolutely amazing."

Addressing the crowd he added: "I wanna keep writing music and doing the stuff I love, and write music for you guys. I'm looking forward to just getting out there and gigging. I can't wait for the tour."

But it was Sam Bailey's night all the way. The 39-year-old prison guard from Leicester had the audience and the judges eating out of the palm of her hand from the off.

Showing off her new slimline figure, she looked like a diva in waiting. Singing the Lady Gaga penned track Edge of Glory, Bailey gave it her all, displaying all the fighting spirit of a champion. She even managed to slide down a fireman's pole mid-performance and her powerful voice spiralled through the arena, winning her a standing ovation from the judges

"Now that's what I'm talking about," said Gary Barlow. "That's how to use a song to showcase your voice. That's how to do it in the final. I think this is your weekend. Incredible performance. "

The sultry Nicole Scherzinger was wowed. "Sam you sang the pants off of that song. I'm gonna say it you are 'Sam-azing'. You rocked up there. You're like a beast and a force to be reckoned with. That voice is undeniable," she said.

Louis Walsh was unequivocal in his praise. "You've got it all. You're a class act. You've got a world class recording voice. You are fantastic."

Bailey was clearly a hard act to follow, as Friend found out. Stood atop a mock tube train filled with passengers as he sang the Fun hit We Are Young, his voice wavered and the live arena experience seemed too much for the young student from Devon.

Getting into his stride by the second half of the song, it was all a little too late to salvage the performance. While Osbourne settled for polite platitudes, Barlow could be relied on to be the voice of truth. Midst jeering from the crowds he said: "For me personally I think the verses were a little bit too low for your voice, but when you hit the chorus... I hope people vote for you based on the chorus not the verses."

While the young singer, noted for his quirky style and originality, redeemed himself with the help of Ellie Goulding singing her hit song Anything Could Happen, he's fate was seemingly sealed.

Meanwhile, for Nicholas McDonald the evening won him a mixed reaction from the judges. Opening the show with the Robbie Wiliams track Candy, MacDonald descended from a mock hot air balloon to sing the jaunty song on a stage festooned with dancers, lollipops and sweet treats.

It was a performance reflecting his years, but a departure from his usual style that had the judges bemused. "That was just like a giant Willy Wonka factory," said Sharon Osbourne. "A great way to start the show. Well done, I'm so happy that you're here."

Gary Barlow was not so convinced. Ignoring the booing audience he said: "On a night like tonight it's about playing to your strengths and that song didn't showcase your talent. I hope when you sing your duet its better than that."

McDonald's mentor Louis Walsh issued his riposte to the Take That star saying: "I've got two acts. Gary has no acts. Gary has been negative from the start. Scotland show Gary whose boss. Gary wrote that song by the way." A bewildered Scherzinger meanwhile described it as a "trippy" experience.

But McDonald made his next song count. Dueting with Westlife's Shane Filan for the Westlife track Flying with Wings, and with the help of a choir, it was the kind of X Factor moment Louis Walsh lives for. Singing the ultimate boy band ballad, the 17-year-old defied his years, pouring his soul into the song.

In a touching moment, Filan embraced him like he was his precocious kid brother, after McDonald almost outsung him. "17 years old and he's able to sing like that absolutely incredible," said Filan.

But if there were ever any doubts that Sam Bailey had booked a place in the final with her first performance, her duet with Nicole Scherzinger sealed the deal.

Singing the Dream Girls track I'm Telling You, a sassy Scherzinger showed them all how it was done. Showing off her svelte frame in a figure hugging, gold, shimmering dress Scherzinger stole everyone's thunder and unwittingly took the shine off Sam in a stunning sing-off. While Sam matched her note for note, the camera was firmly fixed on the former Pussycat Doll.

As the votes poured in there were performances by The Killers followed by what Dermot O'Leary so aptly described as "a tribute to great british barminess with a bit of Brazilian thrown in" as X Factor auditionees from previous series', who didn't make the grade, had their moment to shine, as the quirkier acts to have been borne from the show recreated their past moments of glory. Jedward, Rylan Clarke, Wagner, and Johnny Robinson took to the stage for a camp display of theatrics and excess.

With the announcement of the finalists, a visibly stunned Bailey said: "I'm so overwhelmed by the support. This has been last chance saloon for me throughout the process. It's been twenty years. It's been a long time coming and I finally got here."

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

And if the thrill of singing before 10,000 people live and getting through to the final wasn't enough, it was revealed that the X Factor winner will be supporting none other than Beyonce on her Mrs Carter tour next year.

Ten weeks ago Sam Bailey and Nicholas McDonald were two unknowns, one a prison officer, the other still at school. They are now household names and one of them is set to be the winner of the X Factor 2013.

Find out will win the X Factor final on Sunday 15th December at 7.30pm on ITV 1, featuring guest performers Katy Perry, One Direction, Gary Barlow and Elton John.