There was chaos on the set of University Challenge last night, when the staircase, which has always allowed one team to sit in an elevated position above their rivals - as seen on TV - collapsed, leaving one team high and dry.
The contest, between Queen's College, Cambridge and Imperial College, London, was at an exciting stage, with the score at 295 to 40 in favour of Queen's College, when host, Jeremy Paxman, asked a question about algebra. He said:
"What is the use of algebra?"
Stephen Fry of Queen's College buzzed. As he did, there was a hideous groan of tired metal, and all faces turned to look. There were more long, drawn-out sounds of metal fatigue, and the gantry collapsed, taking the staircase with it.
The audience laughed, thinking this was funny.
The shocked team members of the upstairs-Imperial College didn't think it was quite so amusing, and panic set in. Hassan of Imperial College, seated nearest to the collapsed stairway, screamed, and Griffin, next to him, started to cry. In the confusion, Barber of Queen's College took off his bow tie.
Host Paxman looked on nonchalantly, and suggested the Imperial College team use their extra-long scarves to escape from their predicament, raising his eyebrows to the studio audience at the overdramatic nature of it all.
The latest news from the studio was that Imperial College are due to spend the night 'upstairs', and will be rescued as soon as a portable staircase can be brought in, probably tomorrow morning.