By JODY THOMPSON
Leader of the pack: Britain's Got Talent's head honcho Simon Cowell returned to the judging panel tonight for the first live semi-final - but got ribbed by hosts Ant and Dec over the Cheryl Cole X Factor controversy
Simon Cowell made his eagerly-anticipated return to Britain's Got Talent tonight for the first live semi-final - and instantly got teased by show hosts Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly over the Cheryl Cole X Factor controversy.
Cowell took to the stage mere hours after it was confirmed that the Girls Aloud star would not be a judge on this year's UK X Factor after being sacked from the U.S. version too.
And Dec couldn't resist having a pop at the show's head honcho over the treatment of fellow Geordie Cheryl, saying: 'Can you understand my accent Simon?' as he reclaimed his seat on the BGT judging panel alongside Michael McIntyre, Amanda Holden and David Hasselhoff.
Sign language: Declan Donnelly, (r) with co-host Ant McPartlin (l), referred to Cheryl Cole's dumping from the U.S. X Factor by asking Simon if he could understand his Geordie accent
Cheeky: Simon gave Ant and Dec a very knowing look as he refused to be drawn on their jibe about Cheryl Cole's departure from the X Factor
Simon's return saw 12-year-old singer Ronan Parke get put straight through to Saturday's grand final after landing the most public votes with his version of Adele's Make You Feel My Love - originally written and recorded by Bob Dylan.
Top three: (L-R) Paul Paul Gbegbaje, Joe Oakley and Ronan Parke were the three acts who got the most votes from the public on tonight's first live semi-final
However, the decision on who else should go though to the final split the judges, with David and Michael voting for BMX stunt rider Joe Oakley, but Amanda and Simon siding with pianist Paul Gbegbaje.
Ant and Dec then went to the public vote - and Paul won through with more votes.
Tense: Ronan was shocked to be voted through immediately, but Paul had to wait to hear if he'd been put through after his performance split the judging panel
Good sport: BMX rider Joe still congratulated Paul after he was voted off in favour of the piano player who went through to Saturday's final
Simon had made his grand entrance returning to the show wearing a light grey suit and a white shirt shirt unbutton to his chest, soundtracked by the Superman movie theme music to a standing ovation from his fellow judges.
However, Simon pretended not to realise that Dec was referring to the rumours that Cheryl was dropped because American audiences couldn't understand her accent, saying: 'Am I missing something here?'
Dec repeated his question as to whether or not Simon could understand his Geordie accent, but Simon sidestepped the question, announcing: 'Moving swiftly on...'
Three become four: After weeks of judging on their own, David, Amanda and Michael were rejoined by Simon tonight as the competition reached the live semis
On with the show: Simon sidestepped Ant and Dec's joke and got to work with the rest of the panel to judge the first live semi-final of BGT tonight
Thumbs up: The Hoff appeared delighted that Simon had returned to the judging panel
Simon, who has been away from the BGT judging panel while he concentrated on launching the X Factor in the States, was then asked by Ant and Dec whether he'd agreed with the decisions the judges had made in his absence.
Happy to avoid talking further on the topic of Cheryl however, Simon visibly relaxed and said: 'I've put my absolute trust in these three to find a star.
'Some of the time, one or two decisions I wouldn't have made, but I am assured by Amanda that everyone's ready for the semi finals.'
Not enough: Stuart Arnold was voted out of the competition tonight after his bizarre act failed to impress viewers at home
Terminated: Stuart Arnold's odd Arnold Schwarzenegger karaoke mash-up got buzzed off by David and Simon
Paws for thought: Dog fan Simon loved Donelda Guy and her dancing dogs Biba and Mega
Michael and Amanda meanwhile took the mickey out of Simon's dress sense - referring specifically to his plunging neckline.
Michael joked: 'I can't keep my eyes off his chest' while Amanda chipped in: 'And look at the competition, look at the Hoff's chest!'
Simon however didn't miss a beat and responded: 'And may I just say, look at your chest Amanda!'
Red hot: The Bruce Sistaz impressed the judges with their Kill Bill-style martial arts moves
Saucy dance troupe Girls Roc were the first act before the new four-strong judging panel, and instantly got Simon's seal of approval.
They emerged on a huge set of scaffolding to a remix of Eurythmic's Sweet Dreams - complete with their trademark snake and firebreathing.
They got a resounding thumbs up from David, Michael and Amanda, with Simon enthusing: 'I thought it was fantastic, nothing missing, you blowing fire, snakes, dancing. Do you do home shows?'
Piano man: Paul Gbegbaje was in tune with what the judges wanted and got a resounding thumbs up from all four
Generations of talent: Grandfather and granddaughter act Ted And Grace provided a few laughs on the night
He enthused: 'I would book you for my birthday party next year. I thought the staging was great, the dancing was a bit okay, but who cares? Terrific show girls.'
Other acts battling for the chance to win £100,000 and the chance to perform for The Queen at the Royal Variety Performance in December included long-shot Stuart Arnold, the self-styled Enter-Terminator, who failed to impress David or Simon, getting buzzed off by both.
Dog-lover Simon naturally loved canine dancers Mega and Biba with their owner Donelda Guy performing their routine to Shirley Bassey's cover of Pink's Get The Party Started.
Tenterhooks: There was tension in the studio before the finalists were unveiled by show hosts Ant and Dec
Daredevil: BMX stunt rider Joe Oakley was one of Simon's favourite acts on the night - and he managed not to fall off
Simon gushed: 'It worked more for the dogs than it did for you. But I like the facts the dogs were dancing in the middle', to which Donelda said: 'That was especially for you, Simon.'
Pianist Paul Gbegbaje was also a big hit with the judges, as were martial arts siblings the Bruce Sistaz and the shambolic but sweet Ted and Grace.
But arguably, the best was saved to last.
Big moment: 12-year-old Ronan Parke captivated the entire audience with his pitch-perfect rendition of Adele's Make You Feel My Love
Moved: Both Amanda and Simon raved about young Ronan's assured performance before millions watching live on tonight's show
On song: Ronan is an early favourite to win Saturday's BGT final and the chance to win £100,000 and a place on the Royal Variety Performance bill in December
Simon declared that penultimate performance of the night, BMX stunt rider Joe Oakley, as his favourite act of the evening, but then 12-year-old singer Ronan Parke was last up and appeared to blow all competition out of the water with his assured version of Adele's Make You Feel My Love.
David tipped Ronan to win on Saturday too, saying: 'You sang your heart out and we all felt it. You're going to be really hard to beat in this competition.'
Michael concurred, saying: 'You're a total natural. You nailed that song and I think you've got even more in reserve. '
Amanda was even more positive, saying: 'It was effortless. You have the most gorgeous voice and your parents must be bursting with pride - as I think the whole nation will be after that performance.'
And Simon said: 'I wasn't crazy about your initial choice of song, but I have to say you totally and utterly nailed that.
'If Adele's watching now I think she'll be really happy.'
There was a wait after all the performances had finished and the show returned for the 9.30pm results show, which saw an impressive performance from last year's winner's Spelbound.
Ant and Dec then announced the results of the public vote - which saw Ronan named as the out-and-out winner with automatic entry to Saturday's final.
There were then the nail-biting scenes as the judging panel was split between Paul Gbegbaje and Joe Oakley as to who should be the second act put through - before the public voted was revealed by Ant and Dec and the pianist put through to Saturdays' live final.
Britain's Got Talent is on every day this week on ITV1 at 7,30pm and 9.30pm, as the further acts are whittled down to qualify for Saturday's show.
HD Ronan Parke - Britains Got Talent Live Semi Final, click here
ADELE - 'Make You Feel My Love'
Britain's Got Talent Season 5 Semifinal 1 Pt2