The competition stepped up a notch up in X Factor’s as the remaining six acts tackled Wham! and George Michael classics on Saturday night.

First to step up was Lloyd Daniels who, having narrowly escaped elimination on last week’s show, appeared with a new image and his own rendition of the Michael classic Faith.

Again, it received a mixed response. Louis Walsh said he loved everything except for the teenager’s singing voice, although Simon Cowell leapt to his defence.

“That surprised me because that wasn’t bad at all actually,” he said. “You’ve stepped up!”

He wasn’t quite so keen on Stacey Solomon’s rendition of I Can’t Make You Love Me, however.

“It was a little bit mechanical in parts,” he said. “But there’s no question you’re going to be here next week.”

Cheryl, on the other hand, was wildly enthusiastic about her performance. “You need to start believing you’re the winner,” she said, “because you could do it!”

John and Edward were next, delivering an energetic medley of I’m Your Man and Wham! Rap which scored a mixed response. Cheryl had praise for the pair but Simon wasn’t so sure.

“That wasn’t so much George and Andrew as Andrew and Andrew,” he said, before complaining to Louis Walsh that he was giving the teenagers “too much to do”.

Louis, meanwhile, got his own back when he expressed doubts about Danyl Johnson’s rendition of Careless Whisper.

“You can sing anything,” he said, “but I think you tried too hard tonight, and I would have preferred a different arrangement. I think Simon is making it very difficult for you.”

Dannii, however, said that Danyl sang the song “perfectly”.

The last two performances of the evening both won warm praise from the judges. Olly Murs went down a storm with his version of Fast Love, with Louis saying he had “the potential to be the new pop star in the UK”.

And Joe McElderry rounded off the show with a rendition of Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me which won a standing ovation from all four judges – although Louis complained that Cheryl had bent the rules by choosing an Elton John song covered by George Michael for him to sing.

Simon quickly hit back. “Here’s a new rule,” he told Louis. “We’re going to stop you from speaking – because that kid just gave the performance of his life and you’re sat there with your silly little rule book again, saying he only sang half a song? Who cares?”

He went on to congratulate Joe for giving “that extra 10 per cent” while Cheryl said she was “bursting with pride”.

“You stole the show,” she told him. “Here’s to the final!”

One more act will leave the show for good on Sunday.