NEW YORK(Reuters) - Jessica Sanchez, the youngest finalist on TV singing contest "American Idol," was dramatically saved from elimination on Thursday by the show's judges as she performed a last chance song to prove she was worthy of continuing.
With Jennifer Lopez leading the way, fellow judges Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler stormed the stage and announced they were using their only "save" to keep Sanchez on the show shortly after Sanchez was told she had received the fewest fan votes this week.
"Give me that mic!," Lopez exclaimed as she rushed up to Sanchez. "This is crazy!"
This season, "Idol" judges were allotted one "save" to override audience votes and keep a promising contestant on the show. All of them must agree, and if the "save" had not been used by next week's performance, it would have expired.
Sanchez, who sang Deborah Cox's song "Nobody's Supposed to Be Here" to close out the show, appeared bewildered by both her last place finish and her save.
Then again, bewilderment seemed to be a theme of a wild evening on the No. 1-rated U.S. TV singing contest.
Host Ryan Seacrest began by directing contestants to opposite sides of the stage without telling them which group was safe and which group was in danger of going home. With three singers in each group, Seacrest told remaining contestant Skylar Laine that she would stay and instructed her to "pick the group you think you belong with."
After a shocked Laine protested, Seacrest guided her to a group he finally pronounced as safe, leaving Elise Testone, Joshua Ledet and Sanchez in the bottom three. All three judges expressed confusion and dismay with this outcome. At the end of the show, Jackson admonished audiences to vote more wisely.
This week, audiences judged contestants based on performances of songs from the present decade in Wednesday night's telecast.
Thursday's results episode featured two performances from former "Idol" contestants. Jennifer Hudson, who received an assist from Ne-Yo, sang "Think Like a Man", and James Durbin sang his song "Higher than Heaven."
"Idol", which first aired in on Fox in 2002, has launched the careers of singers Kelly Clarkson and Adam Lambert. Audiences vote for their favorite performers by phone and text message each week as contestants are challenged by a variety of musical styles. The winning contestant receives a recording contract. This season's winner will be decided in May.
Reporting By Andrea Burzynski; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte