Strictly Come Dancing stretched its lead in the ratings war with X Factor by more than two million on Saturday night – its biggest for six years.
X Factor’s woes continued with the ITV1 show pulling in an average of just 7.8 million – including viewers watching on the catch-up channel – which is also two million behind the equivalent show last year.
The audience has plummeted by four million compared with this stage in 2010, the last series featuring Simon Cowell on the judging panel.
Strictly Come Dancing last night topped 9.8 million viewers for BBC1, which is 200,000 up on the previous week.
The show’s lead over its ITV rival is believed to be the biggest for around six years.
Last night James Bond star Colin Salmon became the latest contestant to leave Strictly.
The 49-year-old, who played Charles Robinson in three of the Pierce Brosnan-era 007 films, accepted his losing verdict with grace, saying it was “one of the greatest shows I’ve ever been involved in”.
After Saturday night’s judges’ scores were combined with viewer votes, Salmon and his partner Kristina Rihanoff faced Richard Arnold and Erin Boag, who came bottom of Saturday’s leaderboard, in the dance-off.
Three of the four judges chose to save Daybreak presenter Arnold, which meant Salmon had danced his last foxtrot.
Judge Bruno Tonioli said: “Talk about an incredible turn of events. One couple risen from the ashes, and the other couple messing it up. I have to save born-again Richard and Erin.”
Salmon, also a star of the small screen in programmes such as Prime Suspect and Soldier Soldier, said: “The quality of the competitors this year is seminal. Judges – I respect everything that’s been said, what you do is knowledge.
“Anybody who is out there who may have doubts, you have to understand that this is a discipline beyond anything we understand. So I accept with grace this decision.
“I’m going to miss Kristina. She is an amazing dancer, a pre-eminent dancer in her field, she’s taught me many, many things.”
Denise Van Outen waltzed back to the top of the Strictly leaderboard.
The TV presenter and actress reclaimed the top spot with a romantic Viennese waltz to the famous Etta James song At Last after losing her No 1 spot to gymnast Louis Smith last week.
Van Outen and her dance partner, James Jordan, achieved a score of 35, narrowly edging out Girls Aloud singer Kimberley Walsh and Tracy Beaker star Dani Hamer, who both scored 33.
But Olympic gymnastics hero Smith remained the bookies’ favourite despite finishing out of the podium positions on this week’s leaderboard.
His samba to Ricky Martin’s La Bomba with Flavia Cacace, prompted judge Tonioli to brand him “the king of hypnotic pelvic gyration”. Olympic golden girl Victoria Pendleton disappointed with a samba to Tom Jones’s It’s Not Unusual, coming second-bottom.