Strictly Come Dancing was hit by a series of disasters last night which overshadowed the voting-off of cricketer Phil Tufnell.
Ronnie Corbett, who was forced to fill in for host Bruce Forsyth who was struck down by flu, almost became another casualty of the show after slipping as he made his entrance.
The contestants were also affected by the run of bad luck after Footballers Wives actress Laila Rouass, who bravely performed despite spraining her ankle, had to be carried off stage by dance partner Anton du Beke halfway through their rumba.
The couple looked amazed to make it through to next week’s show after scoring poorly with the judges for their half-finished dance.
Meanwhile Olympic athlete Jade Johnson sustained a painful knee injury.
In a backstage interview with stand-in host Claudia Winkleman she tearfully told viewers that she was unable to perform, and voiced fears that the injury could jeopardise her athletic commitments in the new year.
But it was The Bill star Ali Bastian and Brian Fortuna, who are rumoured to be having an off-screen relationship, that topped the leaderboard this week.
Their sexy cha cha, which showed off their undeniable chemistry, won praise from the judges for technically impressive moves.
Hollyoaks actor Ricky Whittle and Natalie Lowe joined them at the top of the board after stunning the audience with a fast-moving jive that reinforced their status as favourites to win the show.
EastEnders actress Natalie Cassidy also won praise for her foxtrot with Vincent Simone, as did sports presenter Chris Hollis for his ‘angry’ pasa doble.
But while judges praised spin bowler Tufnell for ‘upping his game’ with a debonair American Smooth, it wasn’t enough to save him from being placed in the bottom two.
He said his farewells after lead judge Len Goodman used his deciding vote to save EastEnders actor Ricky Groves following a dance-off.
Tess Daly ensured proceedings went without a hitch, moving from her usual backstage spot to front the show in veteran presenter Bruce’s absence.
It was the first time in its five-year history the 81-year-old missed a show, throwing the programme into unfamiliar territory.
Pint-sized comedian Corbett joined her as a surprise guest. Announcing the regular host’s absence, he said: ‘Bruce isn’t here because he’s got flu and he’s tucked up in bed just watching, so we all wish him a very speedy recovery.’
Then he turned to Tess and said: ‘Are you going to do it or shall I?’ before saying Bruce’s catchphrase, ‘Nice to see you, to see you nice.’
He joked: ‘I couldn’t refuse when Bruce contacted me last night at ten o’clock. I thought if anyone can help at short notice, it’s me.’
Corbett left the bulk of the presenting work to Tess though, who assumed Bruce’s role of asking the judges for their feedback on the celebrity couples’ performances.
As 5ft 9in Tess towered over 5ft 1in Ronnie, Claudia Winkleman – who presents Strictly’s spin-off show It Takes Two – stepped up to man the backstage studio section of the programme.…