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Axe Factor

X FACTOR fans are in for a shock -- four contestants will be sent home from the show this weekend.

In what is one of the biggest twists of the talent series to date, four singing hopefuls will be booted off the TV talent show on Sunday night.

It has been revealed that the celebrity judges are expected to cut four of the 16 finalists, instead of only one performer going forward for the public vote.

In a double bill for the opening of the live stages of the hit programme, Mayo man Louis Walsh and his judging panel will be faced with the challenge of sending one of their acts home -- and audiences get no say in who stays.

"It's a level playing field -- it's all to play for," Westlife manager Louis has told his over-25s -- Kitty Brucknell, Sami Brookes, JoJo Kerr and Johnny Robinson. "None of us has made our decision yet. It's a clean slate and we are making that decision as if we have never seen you before," NDubz star Tulisa has reassured her groups.

Chart-topper Kelly Rowland added that she wanted her category, the girls, to blow her away on the night.

"Make the decision hard for us and let us know why you need to stay," the Destiny's Child singer said.

Take That frontman and boys' mentor Gary Barlow warned his lads that things will be very different from the Judges' Houses show.

"It's one thing singing by a pool -- but it all changes here," the 40-year-old said.

The hopefuls are said to be devastated over the news. Tyrone-native Janet Devlin will be flying the flag for Ireland and is set to go up against her new pals Amelia Lily, Misha Bryan and Sophie Habibis this weekend to keep her place in the contest.

Proud mum Patricia Devlin said that the 16-year-old could not wait to take the stage -- and may even ditch her shoes to perform for 20 million viewers.

"She has always performed barefoot, even when she was small she would go without any shoes -- I think it keeps her grounded."

"She's not into high heels at all either, Doc Marten boots would be more her style," the 47-year-old told the Herald. The finalists -- who have undergone an X Factor makeover ahead of the live rounds -- are in the midst of intense preparations today to put finishing touches to their song choices.

hnews@herald.ie