The Six Chair Challenge got tougher on The X Factor 2017 tonight when Simon Cowell held another sing-off to decide his top six Groups - and Nicole Scherzinger was booed by the crowd for her decisions with the Overs.
The most controversial stage of the ITV talent contest is back, with contestants fighting against each other to take a seat in one of six chairs.
Positioned at their own desk, dubbed the 'Hotseat', each mentor can axe acts they've already seated if someone better comes along. Only when all of their acts have performed is their Judges' Houses line-up complete.
Last week Sharon Osbourne determined the final six Girls, and in tonight's episode it was Simon's turn as he sorted through the Groups.
He faced a dilemma when he backed a new girl band, formed of rejected soloists just 24 hours in advance - and instigated a sing-off to decide whose place they'd take.
We also saw Nicole begin to whittle down the Overs, but some of her choices didn't exactly go down well with the 4,000-strong audience at Wembley's SSE Arena.
As always, the other judges - including X Factor stalwart Louis Walsh - could give their thoughts, but only Simon and Nicole could decide which of their acts would remain in the competition.
Groups - Simon Cowell
Afro-Swagg (Seat) - Afro-Swagg brought an African flavour to the Six Chair Challenge with Fuse ODG's 'Azonto', which left Louis scratching his head. "I don't know what you were singing about, but I liked it," he commented. At least he did like it: Simon thought it was their "worst performance so far". Despite that, he said they were "fun" enough to deserve a seat.
Beau Road (Seat) - Five-piece girlband Beau Road didn't exactly get great feedback from Simon at their room audition. In a bid to win him over, they aimed to take an old track - Paula Abdul's 'Straight Up' - and make it "current". Nicole said there was "a lot of improvement", but added: "I don't know if you're ready to move forward in the competition." It was support from the audience that convinced Simon to give them a chair.
The Cutkelvins (Seat) - Simon wasn't sure about the Scottish family trio's Bootcamp audition, telling them: "What you're trying to do musically is so wrong at the moment." Fortunately, he was more fond of their Six Chair cover of Robin S's 'Show Me Love', which included a rap from brother Kyle. "I really like that you've started to play off each other more," he reviewed. "There were some issues with the vocals, that's probably excitement."
Lemonade (Seat) - Lemonade are another five-piece girl group, who formed just three weeks before they first appeared in front of the panel. Simon complimented them at Bootcamp, saying their vocals had "got better", and they took another step forward with their Six Chair performance of Beyoncé track 'I Was Here'. "You're probably the most improved artist from where we saw you to where you are tonight," he noted.
Easylife (Seat) - Couple Brad and Sarah "met and fell in love" through their shared interest in music, and it also led them to the X Factor stage, where they performed A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera's 'Say Something'. Nicole called it "the best song" they could have chosen, and Simon agreed, rewarding their "genius" choice with a seat.
Jack & Joel (Seat) - Jack acknowledged that he and his university pal Joel had yet to "wow" Simon, and their slightly barmy take on Christina Aguilera's 'Aint No Other Man' did nothing to change that. The media mogul called a halt, saying: "Guys, this is all wrong. I have a feeling when we listen to this back, it's not gonna sound as good as we thought."
The duo got a second chance, this time performing a beatbox version Jessie J and Nicki Minaj's 'Bang Bang', which had the other judges on their feet. "That was bonkers," Simon reacted. "I love weird, take the last chair!"
NQ (No Seat) - By this point all six chairs were occupied, and unfortunately for NQ, they weren't able to dethrone another contestant. The girlband became the only act to be sent home immediately by Simon after failing to impress him with Zayn's 'Pillowtalk'. "Girls, I've heard enough," he said. "This isn't working for me. I'm just looking at some of the others, and I'm seeing originality. This is too generic, not enough personality." Nicole claimed they "managed to take a cool song and make it uncool".
Rak-Su (Seat, replaced Beau Road) - Boyband Rak-Su have become a stand-out act with their ridiculously catchy original tracks, including 'I'm Feelin' You' and 'Knock Knock' - and their latest effort, 'Change Your Mind', had the Wembley crowd screaming. "I love the energy you brought, everyone was on their feet," Louis commented. "You always make it fun," added Sharon. Ever the businessman, Simon suggested there's a "gap in the market" for Rak-Su and opted to sent Beau Road packing so they could have a seat.
JBK (Seat, replaced Afro-Swagg) - JBK's goal to be "the first Filipino boyband to win The X Factor" came a small (but short-lived) step closer to reality, after their rendition of the Boyz II Men classic 'I'll Make Love To You' won them Afro-Swagg's chair. "Your vocals are great. I think it's a no-brainer with you guys," said Sharon. "They're the best vocals we've heard today, they absolutely deserve a seat," praised Louis.
Sean & Conor Price (Seat, replaced Easylife) - Sean (17) and Conor (15) had a tough time at Bootcamp, with Simon interrupting their arena audition. They attempted to up their game for Six Chair with an original song, 'Something In The Way' - but history repeated itself, and the former Mr. Nasty held up his hand again, grumbling: "After that, I'm not sure I'm gonna give you a chair."
The Irish brothers were offered another shot, and undeterred by the reaction, they performed another self-penned track, 'Time'. "What's clear is that in the small rooms, you were much more comfortable," Simon responded. "I think it's very difficult for people your age to be on a stage this big." Despite his concern, he decided to keep Sean and Conor, at Easylife's expense.
New Girl Band (Seat, replaced JBK) - It wouldn't be The X Factor if there wasn't a hastily-formed group of rejected soloists. 'New Girl Band' featured Kelsey, Sky, Imagen, Charley and Lydia, all of whom were in the Girls category, but eliminated in prior stages of the competition. Even though they only came together 24 hours before they took to the stage, their debut performance, of David Guetta and Nicki Minaj's 'Hey Mama', impressed the judges - including Girls' mentor Sharon, who said: "You've all got great voices, you guys will be a force."
Simon thought something was amiss, and asked NQ member Ash to return to the stage, where the girls taught her the opening lines to the song. With Ash's agreement, he decided to put the New Girl Group through to Judges' Houses as a six-piece.
That created another conundrum, as Simon struggled to decide whether they should replace JBK or Lemonade. The two groups participated in a sing-off to decide the result, and he declared Lemonade the winners. This meant JBK had to forfeit their seat, ending their X Factor dream.
Therefore, Simon's top six groups are: The Cutkelvins, Jack & Joel, Lemonade, New Girl Band, Rak-Su and Sean & Conor Price.
Overs - Nicole Scherzinger
Danny Lambo (Seat) - Millionaire Danny pulled out all the stops to bag one of Nicole's spots, gifting her a bouquet of white roses and a designer handbag. He then tried to woo her with a "romantic" song: Billy Paul's 'Me and Mrs Jones'. His tactics didn't wash with the audience, who booed and chanted "off, off, off" - but it was Nicole who was calling the shots, and she exclaimed: "I'm a sucker for romance, take a seat!"
Talia Dean (Seat) - The harsh response to Danny unsettled Talia, who had to be reassured by crew members as she said: "I don't think I can do this." She eventually composed herself, and her piano rendition of Macy Gray's 'I Try' earned the opposite reaction - big cheers and a standing ovation. "This is the best you have sang so far. It was a beautiful song, perfect lyrics for you," Simon commented. Sharon said she was "taken aback". Nicole thought "some of the notes were a little off", but gave Talia the second seat.
Bill Downs (Seat) - This is the first we've heard of Bill taking part in this year's X Factor, but he's no stranger to reality TV: you may remember him from the first series of The Voice UK on BBC One in 2012. For his Six Chair appearance he played Eva Cassidy's 'Songbird' on his guitar, but it didn't grab the panel's attention, with Sharon branding it "boring". Nicole also thought he picked the wrong song, telling him: "You can do so much with your voice." However, she believed in him enough to give him a chair.
Slavko Kalezic (Seat) - Eurovision star Slavko delivered another high-energy performance, singing David Guetta's 'Little Bad Girl' - and, thankfully, this time he managed to avoid whipping his trademark braid off! "I was expecting a show, but I wasn't expecting it to be that great," said Slavko's champion Louis. "You've got it all going on!" Of course, Simon was bemused, and simply shrugged when Nicole gave the Montenegrin her backing.
Gary Barker (Seat) - Gary was desperate to make it through for his son, claiming "no-one wants one of these chairs more", so he was surely disheartened when his performance of The Supremes' 'You Can't Hurry Love' flopped. Simon told him "something's not connecting", while Sharon said: "You've got likeability, but you look like a tax collector." Nicole reckoned he wasn't giving it "everything", but decided to "take a chance" on him.
Berget Lewis (Seat) - Heeding advice from Simon, Dutch 'soul sister' Berget tried to step out of her 'comfort zone' by singing Bon Jovi ballad 'Always'. Her powerful vocals won a standing ovation from the crowd, but the judges weren't keen. Sharon suggested Berget's coming across as a "cabaret singer" and needs to be "relevant", while Simon insisted she'd "misinterpreted" his feedback. Nicole completely disagreed with the pair: "I don't know what they're smoking!"
Glenroy Grant (Seat, replaced Danny Lambo) - Glenroy may be the oldest contender at 71, but his performance of Eddie Floyd's 'Knock On Wood' proved he can take on the youngsters, with Simon calling him "fantastic". Sharon grinned: "You lifted this arena up, you're such a joy to watch." Nicole was concerned he may not cope with the show's "gruelling" schedule, but with encouragement from the audience, she gave him Danny's seat.
Loverine Fermino (Seat, replaced Talia Dean) - Rounding off tonight's line-up was another new face, Filipino singer Loverine, who pulled out a classic: Jennifer Holliday's 'I Am Telling You'. Sharon said that she 'sang for her life', while Simon observed: "The exciting thing is how much you want it." Nicole felt the opposite, calling it Loverine's "worst" performance yet, but held on to her because she's a "fighter".
The ex-Pussycat Doll faced instant backlash when she announced Loverine would be taking Talia's chair. The crowd began booing, and Sharon and Simon both leapt to their feet, the latter gasping: "No way, no way. That is crazy." Even flabbergasted host Dermot O'Leary remarked: "That is insane."
Tonight's episode ended on that bombshell, with Berget, Bill, Gary, Glenroy, Loverine and Slavko as the six acts occupying Nicole's spots - but they're not safe yet.
The last part of the Six Chair Challenge airs tomorrow night at 7.00pm on ITV, when the rest of the Overs will fight for their places, and Louis will pick his top six Boys.