By Matt Wells
BBC News in New York
Thousands of spectators turned out in New York to cheer on David Blaine in his attempt to break the world record for holding breath under water.
The Lincoln Center, Manhattan's home of highbrow performing arts, looked more like a televised circus as Blaine's attempt to enter the record books fell short.
Crowds packed Manhattan's Lincoln Center to watch the spectacle
The grimly tense finale was the only thing that could not be scripted, with enthusiastic crowds lining the outdoor balcony of the Metropolitan Opera to cheer him on.
The indoor stage, for once, was not the focus of attention.
"Represent Brooklyn, David!" was one cry that went up. "We love you, bubble boy," was another.
The showman took his deepest ever breath and submerged for the final time into the acrylic fishbowl that had been his home for the past week.
He lasted seven minutes and eight seconds - two minutes short of the record - before being pulled out by divers.
Thousands of New Yorkers came and stayed to be part of the dramatic televised backdrop for the two-hour ABC network special, breathlessly entitled Drowned Alive.
But true to form, voyeuristic New Yorkers had the last word, sometimes turning the sideshow into the main show.
Hundreds gawped from Columbus Avenue, where the only decent view was on the giant monitor screen at the back of Lincoln Center Plaza.
Never missing an opportunity, an ice cream van and several buskers kept the crowds happy and Blaine's stunt was not the only one that didn't quite come off.
Ted Alcorn, 22, was one half of a duo who held a simultaneous event on the corner of Broadway branded Dunk for Darfur.
"David Blaine was attracting all this attention to break the world record, so we were going to highlight how many had died in Sudan while he was submerged while the world held its breath," the young film-maker said.
Divers pulled Blaine from the sphere and gave him oxygen
Unfortunately, his soaking partner was arrested a few minutes into the imaginative dunking demonstration on the grounds that he had failed to obtain a permit.
At the edge of the crowd that had squeezed on to the plaza steps, dozens of busy pedestrians stopped to check on Blaine's progress, mobile phones held aloft.
Norwegian tourist Lin Roenneng was mystified. "He's crazy. I don't see the point.
"He's hungry for attention, and he's getting it," she added. "We had a guy back home who lived in a department store window for a week a few years ago. I suppose it's fun."
Many of those watching had made at least one previous trip to check on Blaine's progress during the week.
Insurance worker Jennifer Small said she, like countless others, had written him a personal note.
"I asked him if there was room for one more in there, and he gave me a nod," she said. "I'm hoping he remembers me."
Her friend, 27-year-old Dan Bron, spent the tense final half-hour of the show doing a wry commentary on Blaine's struggle for the nearby crowd.
"I've a story tomorrow when I go to work, and that's all that matters," he said, clearly satisfied with the evening's entertainment.
But some spectators left before the television lights had dimmed once they realised Blaine had fallen short of the pre-match hype.
For the thousands of other well-wishers who stayed to see him escorted wearily into a waiting ambulance, though, it was still a night of triumph.
"I got water on my hand from his body," said excited student Anthony Taylor.
He visited Blaine every day of his aquatic incarceration and said he felt a strong bond with his fellow Brooklynite.
"I'm proud of my brother and I think he did good. Most people don't even like taking baths. Nobody else could do that."
Another international group of young women, who had been cheering him on, said they felt his chances of success were always slim.
"We're happy he's not dead. Everyone else was chanting, 'David, David', and we were chanting, 'Don't die, Don't die'," said Suzanne Moyer.
But as usual in this city, there were some harder-hearted assessments of their local son's performance.
"I thought it sucked - I think he let New York down tonight," said Nico Mitchell, 17, who went along with four cousins.
"I wish I'd had a Ferrari to drive around down here - it would have been a better show than that."