SOUTH Yorkshire's Louis Tomlinson and his band One Direction bowed out of the X Factor in third place - as Matt Cardle went on to win it.
But Simon Cowell, who mentored the band, says he still expects them the five-piece to on to a huge pop career.
Smooth crooner Matt, the bookies favourite, beat Liverpool soul singer who was the expected runner up.
One Direction looked dejected as host Dermot O'Leary revealed the initial result of the viewers' vote.
Louis, aged 18, from Doncaster, said: "It's been absolutely incredible. We've done our best and worked hard."
Bandmate Zain Malik added: "We're definitely going to stay together this is not the end."
Cowell said: "I'm gutted for them. But for everyone whose picked up the phone to vote we appreciate it. This is just the beginning for these boys."
One Direction and the other two finalists opened the X Factor final when they joined Take That on stage to sing their 1995 hit track Never Forget.
They performed You're The One with superstar Robbie Williams on last night's show and he laughed: "I'm doing 12 months with Take That - then three years with One Direction. What great fun."
It was a taste of what might be to come for Louis, Liam, Niall, Zayn and Harry, who now look set to follow in the footsteps of the charismatic singer, who was a similar age when he first rose to fame in 90s boy band Take That.
Tonight the band left after performing an emotional version of Natalie Imbruglia's Torn, the first song they ever performed as a group.
Cowell said they had deserved to be the first band to win the X Factor.
Judge Cheryl Cole echoed his comments and said: "It's been so lovely watching and working with you guys and you've got a massive future ahead of you."
It seemed the crowd of screaming girls in the audience agreed as they chanted "One Direction" constantly, making it difficult to hear the judges' comments.
Louis' dad Mark, aged 40, and mum Johannah, 37, who have four other children, praised The Star's Vote One Direction poster campaign for helping to drum up more votes for the band in their bid to win the 1 million record label first prize.
VIDEO: Watch One Direction's performance with Robbie Williams, via the official X Factor channel on YouTube - CLICK HERE.
* The X Factor Live Tour, featuring One Direction and the other finalists, plus other guests, will be at Sheffield's Motorpoint Arena on March 1 and 2. Tickets are 32.50. Visit www.motorpointarena.co.uk
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