Hopefully American Idol judge Simon Cowell isn't a betting man.  In a somewhat surprising result -- and one Cowell wasn't expecting -- Idol eliminated Melinda Doolittle during Wednesday night's live broadcast of the Fox reality show's penultimate results show, clearing the way for Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis to compete in next week's sixth season Idol finale.

Doolittle -- a 29-year-old Brentwood, TN resident who had previously worked as a background singer -- was eliminated after home viewers cast "almost 60 million votes" following Fox's broadcast of Tuesday night's penultimate performance episode.

"You would think that the six-feet between the background mic and the front mic is not really a long walk... but it can be a scary one," said Doolittle during a video montage of her Idol journey.  "Dream bigger than you ever dreamed before because this shows you that it's so possible."

Tuesday night's performance episode featured the Top 3 finalists each performing three songs -- one chosen by one of Idol's three judges; one picked by Idol's producers; and then one of the finalists' personal favorites -- with each finalist having three numbers for viewers to call and vote for which two would compete in next week's finale.

Idol judge Randy Jackson chose "I Believe In You and Me" for Doolittle's first performance.  Jackson explained that he picked that song to challenge Doolittle, and she didn't let him down -- after she was done performing, he described it as "hot" and told her she "blew it out the box."  Fellow judge Paula Abdul called it "fantastic, amazing" and one of her "best performances of the season."  Cowell simply commented, "Round One goes to Melinda," meaning that up to that point in the performance episode she was ahead of fellow finalists Sparks, a 17-year-old from Glendale, AZ, and Lewis, a 25-year-old from Bothell, WA.

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Idol's producers picked "Nutbush City Limits" for Doolittle's second performance and Jackson thought it was "another great, solid performance."  Abdul commented it looked like Doolittle was having a "blast" before telling her "we love you" three times in a row.  Cowell called it "another brilliant performance." 

Doolittle sang "I'm a Woman" for her final performance, a song she originally performed during the Top 16 performance episode.  Jackson said the song selection showed him "the range of Melinda Doolittle" before adding "that was hot again;" Abdul noticed Doolittle was "celebrating [her] whole journey;" while Cowell once again called it a "brilliant performance" and added, "If I'm going to award a place in the finale to the person who has consistently delivered week after week, it's you."

Melinda Doolittle and Blake Lewis share a goodbye embrace following the announcement of Melinda's American Idol elimination (Photo credit Fox/Frank Micelotta)
During Wednesday night's results show broadcast, Idol host Ryan Seacrest first revealed Sparks was safe before moving on  revealing that Doolittle'sIdol 6 experience was coming to a close.  After Doolittle's elimination was announced, Cowell responded with shocked look that featured his mouth slightly ajar.

When Seacrest asked the judges for comments on the the results of Tuesday night's home viewer voting,  Jackson told Doolittle she had nothing to be ashamed of and reminded her that she had been the season's  most consistent performer -- praise that likely came as little consolation considering she had just been  eliminated.  Afterward, Cowell congratulated Lewis and Sparks before turning his attention to Doolittle and commiserating with her.

"Commiseration to you Melinda because you are a heck of a singer," he said.

Earlier in the results show broadcast, Elliott Yamin -- last year's American Idol third-place finisher -- performed "Wait for You," a song from his recently released self-titled debut album.  "Congratulations... be really proud of yourselves for just making it this far... you come so far and I promise you this is only the beginning of great things to come," Yamin told the three sixth season finalists.  "Good luck to all of y'all."
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American Idol's sixth season will conclude next week, beginning on Tuesday, May 22 at 8PM ET (PT tape-delayed) with a one-hour live performance episode that will see Sparks and Lewis make their last attempt to sway viewers' votes in their favor.  The next night, Wednesday, May 23 beginning at 8PM ET (PT tape-delayed), Idol will air a special live two-hour results show that will reveal the sixth-season's winner.