Overnight figures revealed that Strictly had a few hundred thousand more viewers than its arch rival, and was up one million on last year's equivalent episode.
Meanwhile, The X Factor was down a whopping two million viewers, despite producers pulling out the stops with the Wildcard twist and a fleeting surprise appearance from boyband One Direction.
The news apparently set alarm bells ringing for Cowell, who turned 53 yesterday. A 'source' told The Sun: "This is the last birthday present Simon wanted. It’s just a headache he doesn’t need.
"He thought the new line-up just needed more time. It’s looking like that’s not the case."