It was the battle of the girls in the latest Strictly Come Dancing – as Pendle actress Natalie Gumede, Liverpool beauty Abbey Clancy and pop sensation Sophie Ellis-Bextor jointly topped the leaderboard with a score of 35.
But the biggest victory of them all came for former Colne Park High student Natalie, who managed to deliver a stellar performance despite being diagnosed with bouts of sciatica.
Last week we reported fears that our Strictly star may have to pull out of the BBC competition after suffering a back injury while practising the quickstep.
But with determination and doctors’ consent, the 29-year-old managed to once again bag herself another set of high scores and exemplary comments – despite having missed two days of training.
Judge Bruno Tonioli said: “I can’t believe you delivered a dance of this standard in such a short time.”
And Craig Revel Horwood added: “I loved the fusion of quickstep and jazz – I thought that was done immaculately well.”
It wasn’t just Strictly success that Natalie was celebrating this week. The former Coronation Street villain also earned herself the title of “Best Bitch” at the Inside Soap Awards for her portrayal of Tyrone Dobbs’ abusive lover Kirsty Soames.
She wrote on Twitter: “Thank you to @itvcorrie @insidesoapmag and all viewers, readers and voters for my Best Bitch Award! What everyone already knew confirmed ;)”
Bookmakers are now backing Natalie and Sophie as the front-runners of Strictly Come Dancing.
Leading independent odds comparison site easyodds.com can reveal that Ellis-Bextor is now just 7/4 to win the show, with long term favourite Natalie Gumede also available at the same odds and a best price 9/4.
In the battle to avoid elimination from the show, actress Fiona Fullerton is being widely tipped to leave and is a best price 2/1 to be waving goodbye on Sunday. Also expected to struggle is Dragon’s Den panellist Deborah Meaden who is second favourite at 4/1 in this week’s easyodds elimination market.