MORE THAN 1.4 million viewers watched as Zach Russell collapsed in relief on the X Factor stage on Tuesday night.
The 22-year-old Rockhampton singer and his boy band The Collective made it through to the talent show's grand final after a closely contested bottom-two performance against Bella Ferraro.
"I felt like maybe we could be going home because Bella was such a strong contender, I thought, to win it," Russell said backstage after the show.
"She was the one from the very start in the top 12 I thought 'she'll win it hands down'. I was putting my money on her to win.
"I fell down; I just couldn't believe it. I was feeling happy but pain at the same time for Bella."
The deadlocked judging panel left it up to the public vote to decide who got the final spot in the top three.
The five-piece group, assembled during the show's audition process, is up against Samantha Jade and Jason Owen for a Sony Music recording contract.
In next week's grand final shows, Russell and his band mates will perform their original audition song and their best song from the show so far.
"The group keeps getting better every week," he said.
"The results we've produced so far I'm really proud of. It's not easy to get together with four guys you've never met before and we're all soloists. We're not used to singing with other people. Everybody's adapted and adjusted and that process is still happening."
While Jade is the narrow favourite over The Collective to win the show according to SportsBet, Russell said he wouldn't underestimate Owen's fan base.
"Jason's never been in the bottom two so maybe he's the biggest threat," he said.
Russell couldn't confirm or deny rumours The Collective will tour with their mentor Ronan Keating next year.
"A lot of people have been saying it. Ronan's said some things but nothing's set in concrete yet," he said.
"I'd love to tour with Ronan. I'd love to tour with anybody really. I'd like to keep this experience going and keep on doing what we're doing with the guys in the group."
Whatever happens next week, Russell is looking forward to catching up with friends and family in Rockhampton over Christmas.
"My family, they must miss me like crazy," he said.
"I went back for my sister's wedding not long ago and it was amazing just to be back in my home town.
"After the show we get a couple of weeks break over Christmas so I'll be coming up for that. I just can't wait to see everybody."
The X Factor grand final show airs Monday at 7.30pm on Seven.
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