Chris Maloney was left crying and shaking after winning a place in the X Factor finals, but recovered his composure to deliver a stunning performance.
The Liverpudlian dramatically fell to the floor after being told he had won the public vote as the wildcard act on the night of the first live show. But less than an hour later he delivered a brilliant rendition of Hero by Mariah Carey that received universal praise from the judges.
Nicole Scherzinger said: "Who was that up there? I don't even recognise you. You've got rid off all your nerves. You have a great big voice in there."
Fellow judge Tulisa Contostavlos added: "I'm so glad to see you up there finding your confidence. I think you have an amazing voice. It's undeniable." Louis Walsh described it as "a very heartfelt performance".
Gary Barlow had refused to give Maloney a guaranteed place in the finals because he repeatedly suffered from nerves. And after his reaction to securing a wildcard place - host Dermot O'Leary described him as "a wreck" - it appeared likely that he might struggle again under the pressure.
But Maloney said he could not let down the public who had voted for him.
"I wanted to do it for them. I didn't want them to feel it was a waste of money," he said.
All song choices were were inspired by the heroics of the Great Britain athletes at this summer's Olympic Games, and champions including cyclist Laura Trott and boxer Nicola Adams were in the audience.
A "stunning" performance of Take That's Rule The World by 16-year-old Ella Henderson - this year's youngest contestant - blew away the judges. Barlow, who wrote the song, told her: "There's nothing I hate more than someone singing my song 10 times better than me. That was absolutely stunning."
Walsh said it was a "faultless, effortless performance", while Scherzinger told her: "You're from another planet."