The X Factor: it’s the semi-final!

The five remaining X Factor finalists have made their bid for a place in next weekend’s final, each performing two contrasting songs.

The first half of the show saw the acts tackling club classics, while they upped the ante in the second half performing what were described as Get Me To The Final songs.

And while some of the finalists breezed through, it was a more difficult night for others – especially Matt Cardle, who had been suffering from flu this week.

The 27-year-old did well with his first song, a cover of the dance hit You Got The Love, but struggled with the Billy Joel song She’s Always A Woman in the second half, admitting it was “not his best performance”.

And he received little sympathy from Simon Cowell. “Forget about the fact that you had flu because I don’t think anybody cares,” he said. “Can I just mention that I had a cold this week as well.”

He did, however, praise his first performance although was none too keen on his second. “Unfortunately this was your worst song,” he said.

It was also a night of mixed fortunes for Cher Lloyd, who performed two 2010 songs – B.O.B’s Nothin’ On You and Eminem‘s Love The Way You Live – in her bid for the final.

Dannii Minogue expressed doubts about the song choices. “I would have liked to hear you sing a ballad to get you through to the final,” she admitted, but Cher defended her selection.

“Ballads have been done and I want to bring a new twist to English music,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to change myself for the world.”

One Direction, meanwhile, took to the stage following a difficult week, which saw Cheryl Cole step in to mentor them while Simon was ill. The five-piece were also missing a member for much of the week after Zayn Malik returned home to Bradford, following his grandfather’s death.

Nonetheless they put up a good showing with their two songs, Rihanna‘s Only Girl In The World in the first half and the Snow Patrol hit Chasing Cars in the second.

“I love you guys,” Cheryl said, “I thoroughly enjoyed mentoring you.”

However she admitted she wasn’t too keen on the Rihanna song. “That was a little bit dangerous because it’s so current,” she told them. “I don’t know if it worked for me.”

Meanwhile Mary Byrne received a mixed response to her cover version of Never Can Say Goodbye in the first half of the show, but her rendition of The Way We Were in the second struck a positive chord with the judges.

“What a beautiful performance, and you look stunning,” Dannii told her.

Mary broke down when she revealed that the song had been a favourite of her late mother’s and she had not sung it for 15 years but Simon reassured her.

“This is not a time for tears, this is about you,” he said. “You should be very proud, you are a good singer and it’s about finding the next big pop star. I think whatever happens, you will sell records, you will have concerts. You are not going back to the Tesco’s checkout.”

However the biggest praise of the night was saved for Rebecca Ferguson, who kicked off the first half of the show with the dance track Show Me Love, and showed off her vocal talents with Amazing Grace in the second half.

“I loved that this is a side of you we’ve never seen before,” Simon said of her first song while Louis Walsh raved about her second.

“You’re my favourite contestant ever,” he said. “You’re likeable, you’re loveable. You’ve got star quality. I think you’re amazing.”

The results will be revealed on Sunday evening’s show, with the four most popular acts making it through to next weekend’s final.