She came dangerously close to being knocked out of the competition four times in the past 10 weeks but Perth's Samantha Jade went into the X Factor final last night as the bookies' firm favourite.
The bookies were right.
The pint-sized 25-year-old beat country boy Jason Owen and hyped boy group The Collective to become the show's fourth Australian winner, securing a recording contract with Sony Music and triumphing in what she had emotionally described during her audition as her last chance to break into the music industry.
After securing a record deal in LA with US label Jive in 2003, a disillusioned Jade returned to Perth last year to work in her father's factory after her unreleased album remained stuck in record company limbo and a series of breaks in the US fell flat.
Her parents, watching from the audience last night, said the show had given her a second chance.
"She's really got her love of music again," said her father, Kevin. "She's got that passion back."
After 10 weeks, the singing competition came down last night to country boy Owen and Jade, who had had a rocky ride throughout the show and had been in the bottom two more times that any other contestant.Backstage, The Collective nervously hugged Perth's Johnny Ruffo, who came third last year and was there for support, before they went on stage for the elimination."Johnny, how does it feel when you're standing up there?," one asked.Ruffo shook his head: "There's nothing you can do, man. Just go out there and have fun."The group were the first to get knocked out and left the stage to talk to a psychologist who had been on hand throughout the show to prepare the contestants for overnight success and for loss.But talk backstage suggested the group already had a record deal in the works and they could join Jade in the Australian charts before Christmas.Jade's single, What You've Done to Me, went on sale last night.