Hot favourite Joe McElderry won the coveted X Factor title and a life-changing record contract tonight.
The 18-year-old student from South Shields won the eagerly-anticipated final of the hit ITV1 contest, beating Olly Murs in a public vote.
His victory topped one of the most lucrative weekends in British broadcasting, with an extended results show creating prime advertising spots in front of an expected audience of 20 million.
McElderry beat 200,000 applicants to The X Factor and more than 10 million public votes were cast.
He hugged his mentor, fellow Geordie Cheryl Cole, and said: “I can’t even speak, thank you so much everyone.”
He added: “I can’t actually speak and I just want to say thank you to Cheryl, she’s been an amazing mentor.”
He also thanked the other judges and everyone who voted for him.
Cole told him: “I feel over the moon, I’m absolutely delighted. The right person won. I’m so proud of you. The North East are going to be going mad.”
McElderry’s single, The Climb, will be available for download from midnight and will be in shops on Wednesday, host Dermot O’Leary said.
Simon Cowell told McElderry he was ``gutted for Olly'' but ``thrilled for you because you're brilliant''.
It was Cole’s second victory in a row, after mentoring Alexandra Burke in last year’s competition.
Bookmakers said McElderry was now the red-hot favourite to secure Christmas number one, with Ladbrokes cutting his odds of earning the top spot to 1/8.
Ladbrokes spokesman Nick Weinberg said: “Joe is the toast of fans up and down the country. For weeks now he’s looked like the only realistic winner and has justified his billing.
“Christmas chart success is virtually assured.”
William Hill said it now faced a £1 million payout on McElderry, including £7,000 to his family members.
Spokesman Rupert Adams said: “Cowell has killed us.”
In a sign of the show's ability to draw in the world's top stars, Sir Paul McCartney appeared on the final show singing Drive My Car with McElderry, Murs and this year's other 10 X Factor finalists.
Asked for his views on the final pair, Sir Paul said: “I think they’re both good, you know, one of them’s going to win.”
This weekend’s coverage alone, which last night saw Dagenham diva Stacey Solomon booted out, could generate £18 million for troubled broadcaster ITV1, according to some reports.
Earlier, McElderry’s performance of The Climb left Cole wiping tears from her eyes.
“Whatever happens, Joe, you’ve been an absolute – not only a pleasure to listen to, a pleasure to work with,” she said, with her voice breaking.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you and I hope tonight you achieve your dreams.”
Cole said it took her back to when she started in her career.
McElderry, the youngest of this year’s final three, said it was an emotional song which “means everything about what’s gone on in the past couple of months”.
Cowell said he could not pick a winner, fellow judge Louis Walsh said it was a “note-perfect performance”, and Minogue said it was “beautiful” and “effortless”.
For his first song of the evening, McElderry chose Small Town Girl as his favourite and earned a standing ovation from all four judges.
Cowell predicted McElderry could have a hit record with his version, describing him as “brilliant”.
Walsh said: “You’ve got everything: small boy, big voice, and a great, great future.”
Minogue added McElderry was “definitely the best voice on the stage tonight” and Cole urged him not to stop believing as he thanked fans and wished Murs good luck.
Murs’ version of The Climb “answered every criticism” that he was a performer more than a singer, his mentor Cowell said.
“This is why we make the show, it’s to give people like you a break,” he said.
Both Cole and Minogue said he sang in a voice “we’ve never heard before” while Walsh said it would be “a massive hit”.
His earlier performance of his favourite, Twist And Shout, left Cowell, who has described Murs as the “best risk I’ve ever taken in my life”, predicting an upset.
“Forget the tour – we’re here for one reason only and that’s to win The X Factor,” Cowell said, describing Murs as “fearless”.
Walsh told the entertainer he was a “born showman” with a “great career in music” ahead of him, while Cole said it was “another fantastic performance” and added Murs looked like he was in his element.
Earlier, the final 12 wannabes all returned to open the show with their version of Never Forget, which involved McElderry and Murs – two good friends – walking on to the stage with their arms around each other’s shoulders in matching white suits.
Last year’s winner Alexandra Burke, who performed with 2008 runners-up JLS, described The X Factor as the “best experience of your life” and said she had had a fantastic year.
It also emerged that Cowell is eyeing Robbie Williams, who has made several appearances on the show this year, as a potential extra judge for 2010.
He told The People: “Robbie would make a good judge. He is fun, he has got good instincts, he doesn’t take himself too seriously and he is a fun guy to be around.”