X Factor hopefuls have apparently faced a cruel new twist where they were told they’d be going to judges’ houses, but were sent home instead.

In a rule change this year, The X Factor judges were told their categories before boot camp, where they chose 12 singers to perform in front of the Wembley Arena crowd, but then the cruel about-turn took place, The Sun has said.

Each judge picked six of their 12 acts to sit on the stage where they believed they were safe to go through to judges’ houses, but Gary Barlow, Sharon Osbourne, Louis Walsh and Nicole Scherzinger were then given the chance to replace any of the singers they had already chosen.

Sharon chose to swap two of her acts in her over-25s category for other singers and insisted the other judges helped her decide which ones to send packing, although Nicole was unhappy about making the choice.

A source said: “The two singers Sharon dumped walked off the stage in disbelief. They couldn’t believe they’d been replaced at the last minute as they thought they had made it through.

“The changes meant all of the hopefuls were permanently on the edge of their seats, wondering if they would lose their place.”

Sharon said she wasn’t happy about the twist either: “It’s so bittersweet for me. I hate to turn away such talented people, but there are only so many seats. It is really, really nerve-racking. You have got people’s careers and lives in your hands.”

Presenter Dermot O’ Leary agreed: “That was brutal.”

But Gary tweeted: “That was the most incredible and exciting X Factor session EVER!”