One of Britain's top police officers has sent a deadline day application to become Scotland Yard's next Commissioner.
Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, confirmed his candidacy just hours before the job advert expired at noon today, a source said.
Strathclyde chief constable Stephen House and Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police's current acting deputy commissioner, are also being linked with the post left vacant by Sir Paul Stephenson's resignation over the phone-hacking scandal.
Sir Hugh, who told MPs yesterday that he was still undecided over the vacancy, missed out on the job in 2009 when Sir Paul was promoted.
The Surrey-born president of Acpo was first marked out as a prime candidate after winning praise as Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Home Secretary Theresa May dashed any chances of US "supercop" Bill Bratton getting the job yesterday as she underlined the importance of a British citizen for the "unique policing role".
The Met's Acting Commissioner Tim Godwin, whose mettle was tested last week by the rioting crisis which swept across the capital, also confirmed he would apply.
Mrs May said the process of appointing a replacement for Sir Paul was too important to delay in order to enable contenders from other countries to be considered.
"I think it's absolutely important at the moment that we don't delay the appointment of a new Metropolitan Police Commissioner," Mrs May said.
"It's an Olympics year and the Met is facing challenges following the departure of Sir Paul Stephenson and (former Assistant Commissioner) John Yates.
"It's also clear to me that as long as the Met retains its national policing duties, including counter-terrorism, the Commissioner will have a unique policing role in relation to national security, and that is why the post has always been held by a British citizen."
The new Commissioner, tasked with "ensuring public confidence in police integrity", will take over the force on a five-year contract, an advertisement for the role said.
Applicants, to be whittled down to a shortlist in the coming days by the Home Office and Metropolitan Police Authority, will be serving Chief Constables or of equivalent ranks.
An appointment is due to be made next month by the Queen after a recommendation by Mrs May.