Has Paul Akister’s TV showdown with Simon Cowell scuppered his chances of winning The X Factor - or will it rally the voters to his side?
Social media was awash with support for the Lancaster man after he calmly stood up to the music mogul on the TV talent show.
Cowell told the city soul singer to “lighten up” after he complained about being given Bat Out Of Hell by Meat Loaf to sing.
As 7.8m viewers tuned in on Saturday night, the millionaire judge told Akister: “There are thousands and thousands of kids who would love to be where you are right now.”
But our Paul replied: “I think that was a bit unfair to be honest. I enjoy everything I do on this stage.”
As a soul music lover, Akister is no fan of Meat Loaf.
But his powerful performance of Bat Out Of Hell was superb, as he belted out the rock track surrounded by writhing dancers and a metal cage.
Even Cowell conceded “you sang it very well”.
The voting public sided with our man too, sending him through to next week after a tense weekend which saw Jack Walton and Lola Saunders leave the competition.
Paul is now one of just nine acts remaining in the hunt for a recording contract and a shot at the Christmas number one.
Twitter followers also backed Paul, whose vocals earned praise from Pop Idol star Gareth Gates and past X Factor winners Perrie Edwards from Little Mix and Sam Bailey.
But Steve Brookstein, who has written a book about his treatment by Cowell after winning the first X Factor in 2004, tweeted: “Paul Akister is a great singer. He won’t get to the final. Cowell wants him gone.”
Paul’s odds to win the show have drifted out to between 16/1 and 25/1 with bookmakers.
So, people of Morecambe and Lancaster, keep voting for Paul, who sings again this Saturday night on ITV1.
GREG LAMBERT gives his verdict on The X Factor Fright Night show.
Ben Haenow: Van driver looks, performs and sings like a proper star, but still looks like he’d be better off fronting a band. Terrific song choice of ‘Highway to Hell’ by AC/DC.
Lola Saunders: Unlucky not to stay in the contest after a sing-off performance on Sunday full of raw emotion, but her tendency to shout on the big notes came back to haunt her.
Fleur East: The best stage performer in the competition was spectacular doing the classic ‘Thriller’ dance moves but the routine compromised her vocals.
Andrea Faustini: Looked utterly bizarre in gold face paint and devil costume but Italian’s voice carried him through.
Jack Walton: Deservedly axed after bleeding awful rendition of ‘Bleeding Love’ by Leona Lewis, while dressed like 80s Spandau Ballet.
Jay James: Put a creative spin on dreary ‘Mad World’ by Gary Jules. Cheryl seems to dislike him but Welsh ex-navy man is the housewives’ choice.
Lauren Platt: Lifeless delivery and performance of Katy Perry’s ‘Dark Horse’ was teenager’s weakest display yet. But she looks like a pop star.
Paul Akister: Our man is in a different league vocally to everyone else and developing as a stage performer week on week. Cowell’s criticism was indeed unfair as Paul proved how much he wants this chance by coming back after being axed last year. So keep voting for Paul, he’s easily the best contestant in it!
Only the Young: Fully embraced the Hallowe’en theme doing a fun rendition of ‘Monster Mash’.
Stereo Kicks: Lucky to survive the Sunday sing-off as eight-piece boy band remain frustratingly inconsistent.
Stevi Ritchie: An all-time classic X Factor performance where derided funny man proved he can actually sing given the right song, ‘Music of the Night’ from Phantom of the Opera.