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And the “Idol” winner is (interminable Ryan Seacrest pause here) ... Kris Allen.


The charmingly humble 23-year-old from Conway, Ark., walked off with the Season 8 crown last night at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.


Allen’s victory is as big an upset as Mine That Bird’s long-shot win in the Kentucky Derby.


He had, after all, faced a formidable competitor.


Soon after the 13 finalists were assembled in March, Adam Lambert established himself as a prohibitive favorite, a status he maintained right up until Seacrest announced the surprising results at 10:04 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday night.


Allen’s slow and steady approach prevailed over Lambert’s fiery bravado and remarkable vocal range. The quiet but cute pop crooner appeared to grow in confidence and creativity with each passing week.


He may have nipped Lambert right at the wire, in the concluding song of Tuesday’s performance show. Lambert made a disastrous final impression, appearing completely flummoxed by “No Boundaries.”


For the first time in the competition, he was tentative and off-key on the sappy ballad co-written by new addition Kara DioGuradi.


All season long, the fourth judge was a fifth wheel. DioGuardi is to “American Idol” what Kathie Lee Gifford is to “Today”: a superfluous and annoying supernumerary.


Still, Kris Allen should send her a thank-you note.


Allen’s win must have been a disappointment to Simon Cowell. The show’s most influential judge, on the air and behind the scenes, had been shamelessly promoting Lambert for some time.


Two weeks ago, at the end of the Tuesday performance show, Cowell urged viewers to vote for edgy rocker Lambert, a blatant and unprecedented display of favoritism.


Allen’s win may have been unexpected but it was true to form for the Fox singing contest. “Idol” has kissed a few unorthodox contestants (like Blake Lewis two seasons ago), but it tends to marry the more conventional suitor.


Meanwhile, the hoopla surrounding the finale has grown increasingly elaborate.


At the end of its third season, “Idol” first rolled out the red carpet and began hyping the final results as an event. That year, Ray Romano and Nicole Richie were about the only celebrities in attendance.


Wednesday night there were Lionel Richie, Nicole’s dad, and Anoop Desai, who looks like a tanned Romano.


Speaking of tans, did you see the super-bronzed Justin Guarini in the audience? He made George Hamilton look like an albino.


David Hasselhoff was back in the hizzy, as were as Kate Walsh and Heather Locklear.


More than 100,000 young people auditioned for “American Idol” this year. In the end, Allen, the devout small-town singer bested the assured sophisticated Lambert, this season’s Goliath. Score one for the little guy.

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