X Factor boss Simon Cowell stuck the boot into competition favourite Matt Terry, labelling him "bland" and "vanilla".
The ITV singing contest head judge is hoping to see his own act Emily Middlemas make it through to next week's series final at Wembley Arena, but had some scathing words for her competition, who is mentored by Nicole Scherzinger and before Saturday's episode was tipped by the bookies to win.
After opening the show with a rendition of Silent Night for the week's Christmas theme, Terry was told by Cowell: "Until the end when you hit the high note it was like having a sandwich without the butter."
Each act gave two performances, abandoning the festive song choices for their second turns, and waiter Terry, 22, went with Jessie Ware's Say You Love Me which drew praise from Scherzinger and judges Louis Walsh and Sharon Osbourne.
But Cowell said: "I really like you and I think you've done well, but I don't think it's been your best night.
"I appreciate how much you were trying on that song but I felt like it had overtaken you. Something has got lost along the way from when you first started and had that really cool falsetto.
"That for me was bland, I'm sorry."
However, Scherzinger hit back: "Ain't nobody going to rain on my parade, he don't want to talk to me about bland."
Walsh's group act 5 After Midnight performed East 17's Stay Another Day and Cowell said: "The difference between that and the first act (Terry) is the difference between vanilla ice cream and a vanilla ice cream sundae with cherries, bananas, satsumas, tomatoes, everything on top."
Scherzinger got her own back on Cowell when Middlemas sang War Is Over.
She said: "That was nice, and baby the finals are next week, we need more than nice."
But Cowell shot back: "At least it was sincere, Nicole."
Meanwhile, Osbourne's act Saara Aalto has taken over as the bookies' favourite to win after her performances of Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You and Sia's hit Chandelier.
She said: "I've been brought back as a wildcard so many times and I'm not going to give up."
Following her version of Chandelier, Cowell said: "Oh bleep. I've got to hand it to you Saara, I mean apart from the silly dress, it was sensational."
:: The X Factor returns on Sunday at 8pm on ITV when the three finalists will be announced.