by Caroline Westbrook
BBC News entertainment reporter
For a while it looked as though Martin Scorsese would finally get his much sought-after Oscar this year.
Scorsese has been nominated for best director five times
Despite four previous nominations, the director has never won, and many thought that his Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator would be the film to change all that.
But it was not to be. Despite beginning Oscar season as the front-runner, and scoring more nominations than any of its rivals (11 in total), Scorsese and The Aviator ultimately lost out to Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby, after a neck-and-neck battle between the two films.
The boxing drama, which won four Oscars had been gaining momentum ever since winning a clutch of pre-Oscar awards, including the top prize from the Directors' Guild of America.
Eastwood's victory makes him, at 74, the oldest person ever to win a best director Oscar, and caps a hat-trick of statuettes (he previously won for Unforgiven in 1993 and was given the Irving G Thalberg memorial award two years later).
But he was not the only veteran to walk away with an Oscar on the night. Morgan Freeman finally won his first Academy Award at the age of 67, taking the best supporting actor trophy for Million Dollar Baby.
And 80-year-old Sidney Lumet picked up a lifetime achievement Oscar for a body of work that includes the classics Network, Serpico, The Verdict and Dog Day Afternoon.
Ultimately, though, the Oscars themselves delivered few shocks on the night.
Swank's Oscar is her second in six years
Million Dollar Baby's double victory was the only slight surprise - the fact it had been so evenly matched with The Aviator had led pundits to predict a split vote in the top two categories, with many suggesting that Eastwood would take best director and Scorsese's epic would be rewarded with best film.
There were no upsets in the acting categories, however - Jamie Foxx had been such a sure thing for best actor that even the bookies had suspended bets on him.
And British hopefuls Kate Winslet, Imelda Staunton and Clive Owen were unable to stop Million Dollar Baby stars Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman in their tracks - while Sophie Okonedo lost out to supporting actress favourite Cate Blanchett.
It was a bad night for the Brits in general. Of the actors nominated, Clive Owen was thought to have the best chance of going home with gold, following his Golden Globe win for best supporting actor.
But of the 24 British nominees, the only homegrown winners were Sandy Powell for costume design and Andrea Arnold for best live action short film.
Kate Winslet was nominated for best actress
The success of Million Dollar Baby represents a shift back towards smaller, more intimate films dominating awards season, after the recent popularity of blockbusters.
After Return of the King's 11-Oscar sweep in 2004, and the success of such recent winners as Chicago and Gladiator, this time around The Aviator the only real epic among the best film nominees
And despite missing out on the two top prizes, it certainly was not a bad night for the Howard Hughes biopic - with five awards, which also included a clutch of technical prizes for editing, art direction and cinematography, it still took home more gold than any of its rivals.
But as Eastwood adds yet another clutch of awards to his trophy cabinet, the question remains: just what does Martin Scorsese have to do to win that elusive Oscar?