The 14 remaining finalists in X Factor 2010 have taken to the live stage for the second time, this week singing songs by their musical heroes.

And once again it was a good week for most of the front-runners, particularly Matt Cardle and Rebecca Ferguson, both of whom wowed the judges and the audience with their performances.

Matt – who is the bookies favourite to win – closed the show with an emotional rendition of Bruno Mars‘ Just The Way You Are – and the panel couldn’t praise him highly enough.

“Last week you were incredible, tonight you stole the show – I think that would be a number one record,” Louis Walsh told the 27-year-old, while Simon was enthusiastic about the choice of song.

“That song is incredible, and I absolutely loved the production on that,” he said. “It was a genius version.”

Meanwhile, Louis praised Rebecca for her “star quality” after she had performed Nina Simone’s Feeling Good.

“I can see you going all the way in this competition because you’ve got everything,” he said.

And Simon was similarly keen. “This is a big week for Liverpool, they’ve got new owners of their club and they may just have found themselves a new pop star.”

Cher Lloyd also fared well with her rendition of Jay-Z’s Hard Knock Life, although Dannii had her doubts. “I’ve loved every risk you’ve taken before,” she said, “but tonight I wasn’t so sure about it.”

Cheryl Cole, however, was quick to defend her act. “You look like a pop star, you sound like a pop star, you dress like a pop star…you are a pop star,” she told her.

And the other two girls also did well, with Simon tipping Treyc Cohen as a “dark horse” in the competition after her rendition of Prince‘s Purple Rain, and Katie Waissel doing far better than on the first show with her performance of I Would Rather Go blind.

“You’re a hard worker,” Louis said.”You sang your heart out. I think people in the press are giving you a hard time.”

Others who impressed the judges included Mary Byrne, who sang Dusty Springfield‘s You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me. The Dubliner fought back tears as she received the most rapturous reception of the night from the audience, many of whom were on their feet.

“This is why I would never put an age limit on one of these shows,” Simon added. “I didn’t think I would actually like you very much in the finals but I’m happy to admit I was completely wrong.”

The remaining groups also did well, with a good reception for camp duo Diva Fever and girl group Belle Amie, while One Direction wowed the panel, although his choice of song – Kelly Clarkson‘s My Life Would Suck Without You – raised a few eyebrows.

“You seem to be having fun on stage,” Louis said. “But I think Simon could have picked a better song.”

Cheryl however had no such reservations. “I can’t get over how cute you are,” she gushed. “But I want to be saying wow, you are the new big boyband – and I think that’ll come in time.”

However, it was a disappointing night for one of the favourites, 18-year-old Aiden Grimshaw, who called his version of John Lennon’s Jealous Guy “rubbish” – and Cheryl was also unsure, describing the performance as “shaky”.

And rocker Storm Lee, who kicked off the show with Bruce Springsteen‘s Born To Run, divided the judges – as did Wagner’s lively rendition of Tom Jones‘ Help Yourself.

“Did you sing all of that in English?” Dannii asked the Brazilian. “I didn’t understand all of it.

Simon, meanwhile, went straight to the point. “I’ve got to ask you one question,” he said, “Are you getting it on with Mary?”

However Wagner gave nothing away. “Mary is a wonderful soul, she is a noble woman of great character,” he smiled. “She’s a great friend of mine.”

The results will be revealed on Sunday evening’s show, with two more acts eliminated from the competition.