EXC: There was a hidden tribute to Simon Cowell on BGT: The Champions tonight

Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions found its first UK act heading to the final tonight as MerseyGirls topped the superfan vote.

But for the dance troupe it was a particularly emotional night as dancer Julia Carlile was reunited with Simon Cowell two years after he saved her career by paying for a £175,000 operation to fix her spine.

There were tears – from both Julia and Simon – but the music mogul doesn’t know that tonight’s choreography told the story of the hero’s recovery.

‘We definitely wanted to make our dance a tribute for Simon and show what he’d done for Julia because it was such a life-changing thing,’ Julia’s sister Alice Carlile exclusively told Metro.co.uk.

‘We also wanted it to be about Julia’s story and so everyone can see how far she’s come because no one else saw how far she’s come and how hard her recovery was – she’s not lying when she said stretched every day for 365 days.

‘We just want to show people you can get back to where you were and also say thank you.’

‘I never thought I’d be able to dance for Simon again but I have always wanted to show him what I’ve done,’ Julia chipped in. ‘So it was so emotional but I had the time of my life.’

She continued: ‘I didn’t want Simon to think I’d got worse so it was a lot of pressure but I stretched every day just to get back to where I was.

‘So to show him what I’d done was scary but it went really well. I was just so nervous that he’d think I’d got worse!’

Tonight’s display was likely to be the most meaningful moment in Britain’s Got Talent history for Simon, who was visibly emotional when he began talking to the girls.

‘It’s one person’s strength and beyond that it’s the friendship and support of which we saw the first time we met you,’ he told the collective. ‘The fact you are still together and you came back, tonight… it was everything.’

Next stop for MerseyGirls: the finale, where so far they’ll be joining Ant and Dec’s Golden Buzzer Alexa Launeburger, Amanda Holden’s Golden Buzzer Kseniya Simonova and America’s Got Talent daredevils Bello and Annaliese.

Britain’s Got Talent continues next Saturday at 8pm on ITV.

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