It was the second year in a row that the pop quintet picked up the Global Success Award after the category was unveiled for the first time last year.
Only four out the five bandmates stepped up on stage to take the award as Harry was nowhere to be seen.
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Liam Payne asked the crowd: "Has anyone seen the curly lad? Right, there's four of us now."
The 20-year-old continued, biding time, "I want to say thank you to our international team, management, the fans."
Then pop icon Harry came running on stage and took the microphone. "I'm really sorry I was having a wee, the toilets are ages away!" he told the audience before adding, "A massive thank you to all our incredible fans. Thank you."
Ellie Goulding was the winning lady as she beat Laura Marling, Jessie J, Birdie and Laura Mvula to the coveted Best British Female Artist accolade.
Wearing a beautiful gold Julien Macdonald dress the 27-year-old accepted her award from Prince.
"Thank you so much, I genuinely am in shock. I'm about to say a thank you to my lovely management," she told the star-studded crowd at London's O2 Arena.
"I'm shaking. Thank you so much, this means so much to me I can't even tell you."
Arctic Monkeys were the other main winners of the night.
The four-piece Sheffield band were named Best British Group and picked up the gong for Album Of The Year for their latest album AM, while rock legend David Bowie was named best British male, although he was not there in person to collect his award.
BRITS 2014: Winners
- British Male Solo Artist: David Bowie
- British Female Solo Artist: Ellie Goulding
- British Group: Arctic Monkeys
- British Breakthrough Act: Bastille
- British Single of the Year: Rudimental – Waiting All Night
- Critics' Choice: Sam Smith
- British Global Success: One Direction
- MasterCard British Album of the Year: Arctic Monkeys – AM
- Best Producer: Flood and Alan Moulder
- International Male: Bruno Mars
- International Female: Lorde
- International Group: Daft Punk