Rock band Rage Against The Machine ended Simon Cowell's four-year domination of the Christmas charts last night after a hugely popular Facebook campaign helped the Los Angeles nu-metallers snatch the Christmas number one slot from X Factor's Joe McElderry.

More than half a million people downloaded the band's famously anti-authoritarian and expletive-laden track Killing in the Name in what was seen as a grassroots protest against the omnipotence of manufactured pop music.

It is the first time a non-X Factor song has made it to Christmas number one since 2004 and represents a major snub to the show's creator Cowell who angrily described the campaign to deny him another number one slot as "very Scrooge".

X Factor winner McElderry was less than a year old when Rage Against The Machine stormed onto the LA rock scene in 1992 with their self-titled debut album which went triple platinum and effectively gave birth to the nu-metal rock scene by blending heavy metal guitar riffs with politically-charged rap lyrics.

Earlier in the week he listened to Killing in the Name for the first time and described it as "dreadful".

But last night the 18-year-old Geordie singer, whose cover of Miley Cyrus's The Climb sold 50,000 fewer copies than his rivals, was noticeably more magnanimous in defeat.

"Fair play to the guys who have organised the Facebook campaign - it's been exciting to be part of a much-hyped battle and they definitely deserve congratulations," he said.

Speaking on BBC Radio 1's Chart Show last night, Rage frontman Zach de la Rocha said he was delighted by the victory.

"It says more about the spontaneous action taken by young people throughout the UK to topple this very sterile pop monopoly and less about the song and the band. We are very proud to have had the song chosen as the vehicle by which to do this," he said.

For the past four years the Christmas number one has effectively been a forgone conclusion and this year was expected to be no different when McElderry won the latest X Factor series.

But a Facebook group called "Rage Against The Machine for Christmas No 1" quickly transformed itself into a major grassroots protest against the X Factor, attracting more than 980,000 followers.

The campaign took on an increasingly anti-corporate and pro-social justice tone with followers encouraging each other to donate to the homeless charity Shelter which received £65,000 in public donations.

Rage Against The Machine also lent their support to the campaign, promising to donate their royalties to Shelter and to play a thank-you gig in the UK next year if the campaign was successful.