The X Factor became the axe factor when 60 contestants were dumped from the show's boot camp section before they had the chance to sing.
Around 200 would-be stars had travelled to Liverpool in an attempt to make it through to the judges' houses round.
But they were gathered on stage at the city's Echo Arena on Tuesday night and almost a third were sent straight home.
A show source told the Sun: "It was carnage. They were told there would be an important announcement. They went out on stage to face Tulisa, Louis, Gary and Nicole - and then the bombshell. There were looks of shock on people's faces. Even the judges looked upset."
It is believed show supremo Simon Cowell ordered the move amid fears that too many average acts had been put through.
An X Factor spokesman said: "Some of the contestants who got a yes at their first auditions, when seen side by side against the others, were not of a good enough standard."