DUESSELDORF, Germany – A mother of two and an international relations student from Azerbaijan beat out the much-hyped Irish twins and 23 other finalists Saturday to secure their nation's first-ever win in the Eurovision Song Contest.
Nigar Jamal and Eldar Gasimov, who go by the name Ell/Nikki, won 220 points for their classic pop ballad with a catchy refrain, "Running Scared," meaning next year's songfest will be hosted in Baku. Second place went to Italy and Sweden finished third.
"I'm the happiest man in the world right now," Gasimov shouted to the crowd of 36,000 who packed the Fortuna Duesseldorf Arena to watch the show.
He was handed the trophy from Germany's Lena Meyer-Landruth, who had sought to make history by defending her title for a second consecutive year in a row. She finished 10th with the sultry "Taken By A Stranger."
Azerbaijan had been among the top entries favored to win heading into the competition, but other favorites, including the much-hyped Irish duo Jedward, nor the British bookies' top pick, French tenor Amaury Vassili, came in among the top 10 finishers.
Several entries held up the competition's reputation for quirky, kitschy costumes, with the boys from Jedward sporting spiky quiffed hairdos and Moldova's punk rock entry taking the stage sporting tall, conical caps and featuring a woman on a unicycle.
More than 120 viewers around the globe tune in to watch the spectacle that has taken place every year since 1951.
Viewers in the 43 participating nations cast votes by SMS or phone which counted for 50 percent of the contestants' final score. The other 50 percent had been determined by panels of juries selected by each nation.
Two rounds of semifinals held earlier in the week whittled the competitors down to 25 finalists who took to the stage Saturday for an extravagant sound-and-light display.