From left: Finalists Alex & Sierra, Carlito Olivero and Jeff Gutt
12/19/2013 at 01:00 AM EST
The X Factor
's final three arrived at the last performance show by limousine, motorcycle and helicopter, but only one will leave with a crown and recording contract.
Detroit rocker Jeff Gutt, barista Carlito Olivero and the boyfriend-girlfriend duo Alex & Sierra each performed three songs, including a duet with a celebrity guest as well as a "Song of the Series" that propelled them to the finale, and all had their moments on an emotional night.
Olivero, 24, who said "there is no fairytale for me in my life if this doesn't happen," kicked off the show singing "Impossible" in English and Spanish while suspended in midair, before sharing the stage with Prince Royce for "Stand by Me."
He then sang "Maria Maria" as his Song of the Series, which prompted Simon Cowell
to say, "You have earned my respect," and Olivero's mentor Paulina Rubio
, who performed on the show, to say, "You came here with a dream."
Alex & Sierra, who described themselves simply as "just two college kids," soared again.
"Any label will take you right now," a newly engaged Kelly Rowland
said after the duo's initial performance of Ed Sheeran's "Give Me Love," which earned a standing ovation from the judges.
After singing "Bleeding Love" with former The X Factor
U.K. winner Leona Lewis, the duo, both 22, performed "Say Something" as their Song of the Series.
Their haunting rendition of the song, which hit number one on iTunes earlier in the season, blew the judges away again and prompted tears from an emotional Sierra after Alex looked her in the eyes and thanked her for being a part of his life and journey.
"Even better than the first time," Rowland said. "Sierra, it's OK to cry."
"You are exactly what a talent show in America needs," said their mentor, Cowell. "I genuinely believe you deserve to win this."
But Jeff Gutt, 37, who shared an emotional moment with his mentor, Rowland, and even presented her with a photo of them together, might have something to say about that, after rocking the house with "Dream On," a performance that had Cowell believing the single father could win.
"This is the very first time I believe that you believe that you could win this show," Cowell said. "Rockers [on talent shows] can be like the fake Rolexes you buy in Hong Kong … you are the real thing … I can't imagine a record company not signing you after that."
Gutt joined forces with the Goo Goo Dolls' John Rzeznik to sing "Iris," before capping off the night with Radiohead's "Creep," which also earned an ovation from the judges and reduced the usually stoic Gutt to tears.
A winner will be crowned on Thursday night's finale on Fox (8 p.m. ET), which will feature performances by Mary J. Blige, Lea Michele
, One Direction, Pitbull and Ke$ha, and likely a farewell to Lovato, who is leaving the show