'Strictly's' semi-final splits the competition – but who looks destined for

The gloves were off for tonight’s Strictly Come Dancing, as all five remaining celebrities gave it everything they’ve got to bag a place in the final.

But if the judges’ scores are anything to go by, it looks clear that three female celebrities can start brushing up their grand final routines, as they stormed ahead on the leaderboard.

Each couple performed two routines for the first time, with Faye Tozer and Ashley Roberts tied on 76 points at the top, and Stacey Dooley almost neck-and-neck with them on 75 points.

But at the other end of the leaderboard there was more than a 20-point difference, with Lauren Steadman trailing behind on 54 points while Joe Sugg, the only male celebrity left, scored 59 points.

For only the second time this series, we saw a perfect 40 from the judges for Ashley, who also scored top marks the last time they were awarded.

Will the top three of the semi-final class make it through to the last week, and who will be the lucky fourth celebrity to join them?

Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton

Dance 1: Charleston to Five Foot Two Eyes of Blue by Spike Jones

What we thought: Loved the start, where they played an elderly couple – Stacey and Kevin are adorable every week, and Stacey just has boundless energy for every routine.

This was the dance she most wanted to learn, and we thought it was the one that most suited them as a couple. Surely, that was a 10 Craig?

What the judges thought: Shirley Ballas said: “I’m absolutely speechless, is there anything you can’t do? Absolutely phenomenal.”

Darcey Bussell said: “You epitomise the naughty flapper. There was a perfect amount of falling around. It was fabulous.”

Score: 39

Dance 2: Viennese Waltz to You’re My World by Cilla Black

What we thought: Stacey is an absolute queen of the ballroom and sold that Viennese Waltz like no-one else could – certainly more than Joe.

We just can’t believe it’s possible to still be standing, never mind walking in a straight line, after all of those turns.

What the judges thought: Bruno said: “You have such a genuine quality, it looks like you enjoy every second of it. Exquisite.”

Craig said: “A dance of two halves – the first was an American Smooth, the second was pure Viennese Waltz. I felt like it was cheating a little bit.”

Score: 36

Combined score: 75

Joe Sugg and Dianne Buswell

Dance 1: Viennese Waltz to This Year’s Love by David Gray

What we thought: So romantic, but not really smooth enough for a Viennese Waltz.

It wasn’t groundbreaking stuff, or anywhere near as memorable as we’re used to from Joe.

He got very close to Dianne at the end of that routine, though.

What the judges thought: Bruno Tonioli said: “A wonderful, very well-received performance.”

Craig Revel Horwood said: “Way too much rise and fall. All the movement was much too exaggerated.”

Score: 29

Dance 2: Argentine Tango to Red Right Hand by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

What we thought: Much better than his first dance, with a lot more personality, although he did look a little unsteady with lifting Dianne.

It was moody, edgy, but still not quite there in terms of fully embracing the character. We agree with Bruno that he needed a bit more nastiness to spice it up.

What’s with all of the almost-snogging moments in Joe and Dianne’s routines tonight, though?

What the judges thought: Darcey said: “Not a bad effort, but not quite good.

Shirley said: “Taste is debatable, I don’t agree there (with Darcey). You did a lot that was very good.”

Score: 30

Combined score: 59

Ashley Roberts and Pasha Kovalev

Dance 1: Paso Doble to Spectrum (Say My Name) by Florence + The Machine

What we thought: We’ve said so much already about Ashley’s apparent advantage from years of experience in dance, so let’s look just at the performance.

It was fierce, precise, and full of attack even though she looked a tiny bit off balance here and there (Pasha took responsibility for the stumble).

For once, it actually seemed like Ashley was harshly judged tonight – that would have been a 40 from any other celeb.

What the judges thought: Darcey said: “The dramatic intent, the passion you always give. I felt it was quite busy and that loses some of the impact. It wasn’t my favourite from you.”

Shirley said: “It could have had a little bit more passion in certain places, you could have got a little bit closer to him, it could have had a little bit more drama.”

Score: 36

Dance 2: American Smooth to Ain’t That a Kick in the Head by Dean Martin

What we thought: Much more understated that her usual routines, although she did include some super tricky lifts.

It was a beautiful performance and shows that Ashley doesn’t always have to pack five times more content into every second than anyone else to do well.

What the judges thought: Bruno said: “It was more than an American Smooth, it was an American splendour. That sequence of lifts was out of this world.”

Craig was so impressed he just clapped without speaking, which usually signifies a 10 from him.

Score: 40

Combined score: 76

Lauren Steadman and AJ Pritchard

Dance 1: Tango to Nutbush City Limits by Tina Turner

What we thought: Bit of a mixed bag from Lauren tonight – the footwork ranged from precise, to stompy, to a little wooden.

She’s made amazing progress since week one, but this was not our favourite from Lauren.

What the judges thought: Darcey said: “I could feel there were nerves in the air. You don’t always maintain it to the very end.”

Bruno said: “This was your most grown-up performance to date. But once you start, don’t go out of character.”

Score: 31

Dance 2: Samba to Rock the Boat by The Hues Corporation

What we thought: There were some awkward-looking body rolls in there and as the judges pointed out, rather a lot of mistakes.

Lauren did look like she was enjoying it though, and we don’t think she’s written out of the final just yet as she has a huge number of fans.

What the judges thought: Shirley: “You have a larger-than-life partnership with this wonderful man, but you had too many mistakes. This was definitely not your best dance.”

Craig said: “Just a shame really isn’t it that it all went wrong. You could have covered it up by overacting – if you make a mistake, throw your hair about a bit.”

Score: 23

Combined score: 54

Faye Tozer and Giovanni Pernice

Dance 1: Samba to I Go to Rio by Pablo Cruise

What we thought: For once, Faye didn’t look 100% comfortable with tonight’s dance style, although it did get much better as it went on.

As ever, Faye made it look like she was having the time of her life, despite being a bit unsure of a few of the steps.

What the judges thought: Bruno said: “It’s all very well capturing the mood, but you gave us a lot of content. It was excellent.”

Craig said: “Lovely amount of bounce, and I thought the routine was absolutely incredible.”

Score: 37

Dance 2: Argentine Tango to La Cumparsita by Machiko Ozawa

What we thought: Faye does any dramatic, theatrical routines so much better than anyone else in the competition this year.

This was absolutely spellbinding, from start to finish, and every lift she does is so incredibly smooth.

Surely this has to be the second perfect score of the night – whatever nitpicking Craig did.

What the judges thought: Darcey said: “I loved it. The articulation of every tiny movement, it was scrummy. Powerful but feminine.”

For a semi-final it was absolutely outstanding. I’m totally in love with her feet. The passion between you was magical.”

Score: 39

Combined score: 76

Strictly Come Dancing’s results show airs on Sunday at 7.15pm on BBC One.

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