LONDON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Just days after women's rights campaigners celebrated the apparent disappearance of topless women from Rupert Murdoch's Sun newspaper, the British tabloid brought the feature back on Thursday and mocked its critics.
The Sun newspaper has pictured topless models on page three since shortly after Murdoch bought the title in 1969, a key feature of its transformation from a failing paper into a brash tabloid known for its irreverent style of popular journalism.
But opposition against the tradition had been building for years, with campaigners from politicians, women's rights groups and universities arguing that the pictures were sexist and old fashioned.
Another of Murdoch's British titles, the Times, reported the end of the practice on Tuesday saying the 83-year-old Australian-born tycoon had signed off on the move to have its models wear lingerie and bikinis instead.
But on Thursday, under the page three headline "Clarifications and Corrections", the country's biggest-selling newspaper carried a picture of a topless model winking at the camera.
"Further to recent reports in all other media outlets, we would like to clarify that this is Page 3 and this is a picture of Nicole, 22, from Bournemouth," it said.
"We would like to apologise on behalf of the print and broadcast journalists who have spent the last two days talking and writing about us."
Supporters of the "No More Page Three" campaign had hailed the change as a step in the right direction for gender equality in Britain but on Thursday the Sun's front page announced: "We've had a mammary lapse".
The campaign against the feature said the fight would continue. (Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Dominic Evans)