NEW YORK (AP) - Most observers thought she was a lock to go on to the "American Idol" finale, but Melinda Doolittle was eliminated Wednesday night.
The result was a real surprise, considering Doolittle - hands down the best singer there - had the blessing of Simon Cowell. Her departure clears the way for a final showdown between Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis.
"Congratulations to you two. My commiserations, Melinda, 'cause you are one heck of a singer," said a glum Cowell, who covered his face with his hands upon hearing the news.
The acerbic judge had always made clear his affection for the 29-year-old backup singer-turned-diva from Brentwood, Tenn., who delivered knockout performances week after week.