New York Long-locked Alabama rocker Bo Bice and Carrie Underwood, the country fan from Oklahoma, squared off with soaring ballads and gospel choirs in the "American Idol" finals Tuesday.
Millions of voters will decide whether Bice's audacious claim of one of Underwood's songs will trump Simon Cowell's last-minute endorsement of her.
The winner of the nation's most popular talent contest will be announced on Fox tonight.
Bice, from Helena, Ala., wanted to bring some rock 'n' roll street cred to the competition. He looked every bit the hippie with his flowing white shirt, red sunglasses and shoulder-length hair on his opening song, an original called "The Long Long Road."
It almost backfired. Cowell called it a "very dreary song" and said Bice, 29, looked like his chemistry teacher.
"You're going to have to do a hell of a lot better than that to walk away with this title," he said.
He rebounded with a more rousing Chicago number and later sang "Inside Your Heaven," a song Underwood had performed only minutes earlier. It was a gutsy choice, giving voters a chance to compare him directly with his competitor on the same song.
Judge Randy Jackson declared Bice "forever in my dog pound" and Cowell thought he outsang Underwood.
Underwood, a 22-year-old college senior from Checotah, Okla., has made plain her love of country music and sang Martina McBride's "Independence Day" among her final three songs.
Easy-to-please judge Paula Abdul liked - we think - her version of "Inside Your Heaven."
"You sang the song beautifully," she said. "You hit a couple of not-so-great notes, but who cares?"
Her final song, "Angels Brought Me Here," was made for belting out and Underwood let fly. Her voice cracked with emotion during the final notes.
"I think you've done enough to win this competition," Cowell said.
A victory means a guaranteed recording contract. But as Clay Aiken found out, losing doesn't have to mean obscurity.
One sure winner will be Fox. The finale - on the last day of the television season - is likely to guarantee the network its first-ever ratings championship among 18-to-49-year-old viewers.