James Arthur with the Boro players - Photo by Terry Blackburn

Led by James' favourite player Jonathan Woodgate, the lads presented his with a signed Boro shirt and chatted about his whirlwind adventure since auditioning for the singing competition just a few weeks ago.

They then handed over another shirt to his X Factor mentor, Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger - before lining up to pose for individual photos with the worldwide megastar.

James Arthur with the Boro players - Photo by Terry Blackburn

As well as Woodgate, Scott McDonald, Ishmael Miller, Cameron Park, Curtis Main, Muzzy Carayol, Grant Leadbitter, Richard Smallwood, Josh McEachran and former Boro star Craig Hignett were all part of the Boro delegation.

Nicole Scherzinger in her Boro shirt - Photo by Terry Blackburn

The players then joined hundreds of screaming fans inside the Town Hall auditorium as James sang four hits - and Nicole delighted the Teesside crowd by introducing him wearing her new Boro shirt!

Boro fan James had previously met BB Tees expert summariser Hignett on a visit to Wembley Stadium from spin-off show The Xtra Factor.

James Arthur with Nicole Scherzinger at his Middlesbrough Town Hall homecoming gig - Photo by Terry Blackburn

And before the live shows even started he dropped into the Riverside for a specially-arranged kickabout on the pitch with former X Factor finalist Olly Murs.

Tuesday's visit was part of a day of events on the homecoming trip, including stopping off in a pub with Nicole for the now obligatory pint and a parmo.

Nicole later tweeted: "Seeing my boy @JamesArthur23 hometown in Middlesbrough by the Sea, WHO KNEW!?... It could be so stunning here!" - complete with a photo of the ocean at not Middlesbrough but Salturn, where James lives!

At the end of a long day, James tweeted: "Wow that was epic! Thank you SO much for all of your support, Middlesbrough you have made today very special for me x"

James is the bookies' favourite to win the final, which is being held this Saturday and Sunday.

However, he has been in the bottom two in a previous heat and it will be up to the viewing public to decide if he is to be crowned the overall winner.