After winning this year's X Factor, girl group Little Mix have taken the number one spot with their debut single – but the days when the winners of the ITV1 talent show were guaranteed to top the chart at Christmas are over, and Little Mix are still a week away from the big prize.
"Thanks for supporting us, even after The X Factor," said Little Mix's Perrie Edwards yesterday when the chart was announced. The group's cover of Damien Rice's Cannonball sold 210,000 copies in its first week of release.
But Little Mix have - unusually for winners of The X Factor - released their single a week ahead of Christmas, and this year's festive music battle is going to be harder fought than usual. Bookmakers predict that the X Factor quartet will be beaten by Gareth Malone's Military Wives Choir, made up of women whose partners are serving in Afghanistan.
Coldplay, currently at number two, will be hoping for a last-week push to get Paradise to climb one more position. And there's a strong online campaign to send the re-release of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit to the top. Jon Morter, who kept 2009 X Factor winner Joe McElderry from the Christmas number one by organising a mass download of Killing in the Name Of by Rage Against the Machine, tipped Nirvana last month when writing exclusively for RadioTimes.com about the 2011 Christmas chart race.
However, the Military Wives have gained ground since then and are now in pole position.
The X Factor has generated hit after hit, with its acts claiming the number one position for one week in five over the past decade - a tally to which Little Mix have now contributed. But is the show's golden era waning? Or is there just unusually strong competition this year? The Christmas number one will be revealed on Sunday.