MasterChef favourite Alison O'Reilly made a shock exit from the kitchen as three finalists were selected to vie for the show's culinary crown.
The Dubliner fell at the competition's final hurdle when her southern-fried chicken was determined not enough to earn a place in the show's flagship challenge.
Her departure came despite the dish being hailed as "fabulous" and "challenging in a very, very good way" by the judges.
The remaining finalists - Giovanna Ryan, Steve Kielty, Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed - then had to ignite six of the restaurant business's most seasoned taste buds in the Chef's Table task.
Under the watchful gaze of Michelin-star chef Sat Bains, who crafted a three-course menu for the competitors to follow, they set about championing one of his signature dishes.
Yards away sat a prestigious cast of diners - leading chefs Steve Groves, Paul Ainsworth, Tom Kitchin, Shaun Rankin, Ashley Palmer-Watts and Clare Smyth - ready to assess their gastronomic nous.
Their offerings of scallops, duck and chocolate mousse topped with granita were universally acclaimed by the experts, earning some choice praise from Mr Kitchin.
"The world is your culinary oyster right now," he told the final three.
Earlier, Alison was shown the door when her self-confessed "risky dish" was not enough to win over the judges.
The final four had been told to prepare a classic dish with their own twist.
Alison's chicken, served with "dirty" rice, beetroot vinaigrette and roasted pineapple, was called "completely bonkers", but judge Gregg Wallace said they decided to let her go by the "tightest of margins".
Viewers expressed surprise at the decision to eliminate Alison, with many having touted her as a favourite to triumph.
"A nation just gasped," one wrote.
Another said: "Can't believe they've sent Alison home, consistently made different, innovative dishes from variety of cuisines. Robbed."
:: MasterChef final, 8.30pm Friday May 12, BBC One