Other contestants congratulate Miss Philippines Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach after she was crowned Miss Universe at the Miss Universe pageant Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, in Las Vegas (AP)
Miss Colombia was wrongly named Miss Universe in a dramatic mix-up in front of a global television audience of millions Sunday, before the rightful winner Miss Philippines was finally handed the glittering crown.
The pageant's host, US comedian Steve Harvey, misread his cue card and initially announced Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez, had triumphed.
She was fleetingly crowned and congratulated at the ceremony in Las Vegas and started waving to fans. But as she blew kisses to an adoring crowd, Harvey was forced to come clean and announce the real winner.
"OK folks, I have to apologize. The first runner up is Colombia."
"Miss Universe 2015 is Philippines," he added as the music began anew, with the actual winner, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach -- a high-profile actress and television host -- looking stunned and mouthing "what?"
Harvey attempted to explain the error to a perplexed audience, who greeted the news with both cheers and boos.
"This is exactly what's on the card. I will take responsibility for this. It was my mistake, it was on the card," he said.
"It was my mistake, still a great night," added the talk show host, saying the audience should not "hold it against the ladies."
The glittering crown was then promptly placed on Wurtzbach's head. She later told reporters she wished Miss Colombia the best.
"I'm very sorry, I did not take the crown from her and I wish her well in whatever she wants to pursue after this pageant," she said.
In the Philippines, celebrations broke out despite the gaffe.
The presidential palace led the nation in hailing the victory of the German-Filipino model, who this year fuelled gossip of a relationship with 55-year-old President Benigno Aquino by saying they were friends and that "he's very fun to talk to."
"We congratulate her for this success as the third Miss Universe of the Philippines," Aquino's spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.
"In bagging this victory, Ms. Wurtzbach not only serves as a tremendous source of pride for our people, but also holds up the banner of our women and of our country, as a true representative of what the Filipina can achieve," he added.
Lacierda also praised Wurtzbach's "tremendous poise and control" after the pageant host's mistake.
Top Philippine broadcaster ABS-CBN, where Wurtzbach works as an actress and host, cut off a live broadcast of Aquino addressing the military to air an on-camera apology by Harvey after the pageant.
"I felt sorry for both candidates... and for all the Filipinos... who were watching live. It took away from the experience," said the country's last Miss Universe, 1973 winner Margie Moran.
News of the error spread rapidly on social media, with the #MissUniverse2015 hashtag trending.
"People are human, mistakes can happen. Luckily some have the bravery to own it & take a step to correct it. Hugs to #MissUniverse2015 wow," tweeted Audrey Bolte, who described herself as Miss Ohio USA 2012.
Some viewers appeared to be gloating.
"It's okay Miss Colombia. At least you know how it feels to be Miss Universe, at least for a few minutes," one Filipino said on Twitter.
Harvey later also fired off a series of messages, apologizing again for what he called "an honest mistake."
"I feel terrible," one of his tweets said.
The contest is wildly popular in Latin America and much of Asia.
The event was held on the same night police said one person died and at least 26 were hurt after a woman deliberately and repeatedly rammed her car into pedestrians on the packed Las Vegas Strip, not far from the Miss Universe venue.