Van driver Ben Haenow is on the road to music stardom tonight after he was named winner of The X Factor.
The 29-year-old’s victory came as a shock after his rival Fleur East, 26, was installed as hot favourite.
After the result was announced, Haenow said: “I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it. Thank you so much.
“My dream has come true. You can’t imagine you are going to get to this point in the competition.”
Simon Cowell, who was mentor to both of the remaining two acts, said: ``I couldn't be happier for you, Ben. You've deserved it - you are a great guy and I'm so proud of you.''
He hailed East as a “fantastic runner up”.
She said: “I’m so grateful. I love Ben so much, I’m so happy for him.”
Haenow was previously in a band with his brother called The Lost Audio.
He performed the winner’s single – a cover of OneRepublic’s Something I Need - at the close of the 11th series of the TV3 show.
The track will now be a strong contender for Christmas number one.
Earlier Mel B thanked the nurses and doctors who cared for her during the illness that saw her miss the X Factor on Saturday night.
The former Spice Girl returned to the judges’ panel tonight after being released from hospital.
She said: “I really missed being here but thanks to all the doctors and nurses who took care of me and got me here tonight.”
Asked by host Dermot O’Leary if she was feeling better, Mel said: “Yes - ish.”
Haenow, from Croydon, south London, performed Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror as his song of the series.
Judge Louis Walsh said: “You are here for a reason. You have got the talent, you are an incredibly nice guy.”
His performance left Mel feeling emotional. “You made me cry a little bit,” she said. “Those lyrics mean so much to you, so much to me. That was a job well done.”
Londoner East sang Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk and earned rave reviews.
Cowell said: “Oh my God. I’ve got to say of all the finalists I’ve ever head that was the greatest performance I’ve ever witnessed.
“I’m torn – I would ideally like to split the prize and give both of you the award for winning.”
Ronson topped the singles charts tonight with the song, which was rushed out after Fleur covered it for the first time earlier in the series.
Both finalists took their last chance to impress viewers by performing their versions of the winner’s single, OneRepublic’s track Something I Need. Cowell again described feeling torn between the two singers.
“This is probably the best and closest final I have ever, ever judged... I really wish I could give the prize to both of you, you have both been amazing,” he said.
The show also featured Olly Murs and Demi Lovato performing a duet, Sam Smith singing Stay With Me and One Direction being joined on stage by Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood.
It emerged today that the show drew its lowest audience for a decade – and trailed its BBC1 rival Strictly Come Dancing by more than a million viewers. The ITV show had an average audience of 8.4 million, including those watching on the catch-up +1 channel, which was down 100,000 on the Saturday stage of last year’s finale.
The only time it has fared worse was in 2004 when it pulled in 8.1 million for the first ever final, won by Steve Brookstein. Without the +1 figures this year, the audiences would be on a par.
Strictly – which last night reached its semi-final stage – drew 9.9 million, which was also down 100,000 on the equivalent show last year.
The BBC dance show has been ahead throughout this year’s series, although ITV will take comfort that last night’s show was 1.1 million up on the Saturday night edition of the X Factor semi-final last week.
The singing contest has seen a marked decline in its audience over recent years. In 2010 – when Matt Cardle was the winner – the equivalent show drew 14.1 million viewers.
There had been hopes that the return of Simon Cowell and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini would lift the viewing figures this year but their appearances have not translated into a ratings boost.