Veteran star David Bowie crowned his comeback to become the oldest star ever to win a Brit Award last night - and used his winner's speech to urge Scotland to remain part of the UK.
The 67-year-old was given the best British male prize - after being awarded the same title exactly 30 years ago - following a 10-year recording break.
And in a speech read out on his behalf by supermodel Kate Moss - wearing one of his Ziggy Stardust stage outfits from 1972 - he stepped into the referendum debate by declaring: "Scotland stay with us."
The other big winners of the night were Arctic Monkeys who collected two prizes - best group and best album - repeating the feat they pulled off in 2007 and 2008. The Sheffield quartet have had a new wave of success on the back of their fifth album AM.
And chart star Harry Styles took the wrong direction during one of his band's big moment at the ceremony by nipping to the toilet when he should have collected a prize.
The singer left his One Direction pals to head on stage without him as they collected their global success award - one of two wins - and after eventually joining them asked: "What did we win?"
The star-studded bash, staged at the O2 Arena, featured performances by acts such as Beyonce, Katy Perry and Pharrell Williams.
Bowie rarely leaves New York where he has been living for many years, and instead sent Moss to pick up the prize wearing a costume he wore onstage many years earlier to deliver his message.
She said: "Good evening ladies and gentleman, David has asked me to say this. I'm completely delighted to have a Brit for being the best male - but I am, aren't I Kate? I think it's a great way to end the day. Thank you very, very much and Scotland stay with us."
Noel Gallagher who announced Bowie as the winner said: "You maniacs didn't think David Bowie was actually going to be here? David Bowie's too cool for that - he doesn't do this s***.
Bowie beat acts such as Jake Bugg and Tom Odell to win his award tonight - his first Brit for 18 years and only the third he has ever been given.
He has succeeded Sir Tom Jones - who landed a prize at the age of 62 - as the oldest recipient.
One Direction left fans confused when they headed to pick their first award of the night as a four-piece with just Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan and Liam Payne going on stage.
Payne asked: "Has anyone seen the curly haired lad? I don't know where you are Harry."
Styles then came hurtling up a runway to the stage and told the audience: "I'm really sorry I was having a wee. Toilets are ages away. What did we win?"
Corden then poked fun at the star's lothario reputation, adding: Having a wee? He couldn't even wait 'til the end of the show."
All five of the group were present to collect their second award of the night, taking the best video gong for Best Song Ever.
The award was voted by Twitter users during the show, which was being screened internationally on YouTube, the first time organisers have used social media to choose a winner.
But with more than 17 million followers on Twitter - almost three times as many as the other nominees combined - the group were always a shoo-in to pick up the prize.
Singer Ellie Goulding - who famously performed at the reception following the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - was named best British female star to land the first prize of the night.
She said: "This means so much to me - I can't even tell you."
Arctic Monkeys opened the show with a performance of their track R U Mine? with flaming letters spelling out the name of their fifth album AM.
Frontman Alex Turner joked as they collected their best group prize: "That's 15 quid we put on One Direction to win down the drain."
And picking the best album prize, he declared: "Yeah, that rock and roll - it seems like its fading away sometimes, but it will never die. And there's nothing you can do about it. Thank you very much for this. I do truly appreciate it."
"Invoice me for the microphone if you need it," he added before dropping his microphone on to the stage.
Ceremony host James Corden cheekily took a "selfie" picture of himself with guest presenter Prince from the stage and then posted the image on Twitter while the ceremony was still going on.
The presenter - who is stepping down after four successive years fronting the show - took part in a daring stunt in which his sleeve was ablaze, pretending it had caught fire after brushing past the flaming letters during Arctic Monkeys' performance.
Corden also kissed Radio 1 breakfast show DJ Nick Grimshaw on the lips during the performance, a repeat of last year's encounter between the pair.
Other winners included Bruno Mars who was named best international male act, Bastille who took the best breakthrough act prize and Rudimental who took the best single prize for Waiting All Night.
Gusts presenters included Kylie Minogue - wearing a knee-length black rubber dress - as well as Lily Allen, Nicole Scherzinger and Cesc Fabregas.
Guitarist and producer Nile Rodgers collected the best international group award on behalf of French duo Daft Punk - who often appear in public dressed as robots - who did not attend the ceremony.
Rodgers worked on the pair's Random Access Memories album as well as adding his signature guitar sound to his single Get Lucky.
He joked: "I guess we got lucky."