Mary and Paul decide not to eliminate anyone in Bake Off cliffhanger

Contestants breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday evening after Great British Bake Off judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry could not agree who to send home – and gave them all a reprieve for the first time since the show began.

Richard Burr and Kate Henry, who had been impressive in previous shows, had been in jeopardy after poor performances in the latest round of the BBC1 competition. But with no clear-cut choice of who should leave the marquee, both amateur bakers were able to continue for a further week.

The Great British Bake Off has already lost one extra hopeful prematurely when viewers were told last week that Diana Beard had withdrawn due to ill health.

Hollywood said of their tough decision: “As judges, it was an extremely difficult week for us both, and Mary and I were going round in circles trying to make the right decision. We both decided that the only fair decision was that no one should go.”

Berry said: “This became neck and neck. Paul and I have the same standards, so we both felt passionate about marking the bakes they had produced. As they were both so equal in our minds, it just didn’t seem fair to eliminate one of them, so we decided on a draw.”

Furniture restorer Henry said, after hearing she would remain in the contest: “That was really tough, I am not very good at coming last.”

And builder Burr, noted for always appearing with a pencil tucked behind his ear, said: “I think I dodged a bullet just then.”

Berry said the series has been the best so far with an “exceptional” standard of baking. “Of course when that happens it means that as you get to over half-way through the series, the bakers are of a very high and even calibre. Which made it even harder for us to choose between Kate and Richard,” she said.

Hollywood added: “The challenges for episode six, particularly for the Showstopper, was a tough one for the bakers, and a tough one for us to judge. I believe we made the right decision for all the right reasons.”