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Emotional Anton du Beke thanked Strictly bosses for rescuing his year – admitting his early exit left his ego 'around his ankles'.

The pro dancer thought his involvement was over after going home in the first week this year.

Anton, 54, bowed out from the competition after he and former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith failed to be saved by the judges after losing the first viewer vote.

But the professional – who has been with the BBC dance contest since it started – was handed a lifeline after being asked to step in for Motsi Mabuse for two weeks after she had to jet off to Germany.

Anton says his stint alongside Craig Revel Horwood and head judge Shirley Ballas has saved 2020 for him as he thanked BBC bosses for giving him a chance.

His wife Hannah couldn't keep it together when she found out
(Image: Getty Images Europe)

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He said: "Thank goodness they gave me that job. My ego was around my ankles after getting booted off first this year.

"It came out of the blue. We heard Motsi had to go back to Germany and I didn’t know what they were going to do.

"Then I got a phone call when they asked me to do it. I was so, so happy."

Anton couldn't say yes quickly enough when asked to stand in – and he instantly won fans over.

Fans have loved seeing Anton on the panel

The judging stint saved his year after a very early exit left his ego in bits
(Image: PA)

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He delighted contestants with his positive comments and viewers enjoyed his relationship with his co-stars over the past two weekends.

He added: "I love the show. I love everything about it, so to finally get a chance to judge it was incredible.

"My wife cried when I told her but I also thought that it would give me something to do for the rest of the series.

"When you’re voted off at the beginning you have nothing to do. It’s easy not to feel part of the show because you’re sitting in the audience watching everyone else dance. So thank goodness they gave me the judging job."

But Anton is keeping quiet about the Glitterball.

He says he is "not allowed" to say who he feels will win the show as fans prepare for another exit on Sunday.

*Strictly returns tonight on BBC One