WINNIPEG - As Winnipeg magician Darcy Oake dangled upside-down and wriggled to escape a hinged trap with spikes that threatened to impale him, the audience members and judges of Saturday's finale of "Britain's Got Talent" were on the edge of their seats.
Oake, 26, debuted on the variety show contest with a dazzling display of slight-of-hand tricks with doves, which wowed even notoriously blunt judge Simon Cowell.
However Saturday's performance, where Oake competed 10 other variety acts, was a lot more risky and had to be completed under the pressure of a burning piece of cord, which was all that held the trap's arms from closing on him.
Oake escaped and survived. But when the British television audience voted, Oake wasn't in the running and the top prize of 250,000 British pounds (about C$456,000) went to Collabro, a musical theatre group.
"Win or lose. This has been the most amazing experience of my life," the magician tweeted just moments after his performance.
The routine was called "The Jaws of Death."
The audience weren't the only ones holding their breath as the cord burned thinner and thinner. Oake's father, "Hockey Night in Canada" broadcaster Scott Oake, followed up-to-the minute social media updates of how the act was going while riding a bus to Staples Centre in Los Angeles to cover Game 2 of the NHL Stanley Cup final.
Oake's mother followed the happenings at the family's cottage in Manitoba.
"I've seen him do that routine before, but it never fails to create a sense of anxiety," Scott Oake said, speaking by cellphone from the bus.
"He's skilled enough that he can do it successfully each time," he added. "We honestly never expect that he's going to get killed."
On a video screen behind the stage, an image of a younger Darcy Oake next to his late brother was shown. Bruce Oake died three years ago from a drug addiction.
Scott Oake explained that Darcy is greatly motivated by trying to make his brother's life mean something. The performer has committed to trying to establish a drug treatment centre in Winnipeg that's similar to one in Calgary, Simon's House, where his brother underwent treatment.
"Bruce is never far from Darcy's mind and it's just an example of how close they were as brothers," Oake said.
Cowell told Oake on an earlier appearance of "Britain's Got Talent" that he's "the best magician'' they've ever had on the show, called him a "star" and praised him for presenting magic in a non-corny way.
A YouTube clip of the performance with the doves has garnered over 25 million views.
Oake has said he'll likely settle down in London for a while, and ultimately hopes to make it to the level of famed illusionist David Copperfield.
"Thank you everyone for your love and support," Oake tweeted after Saturday's results were announced.
"You have all been incredible throughout this journey. See you soon!"