Kathryn Bigelow has made Oscars history by becoming the first woman to win the best director award, describing her victory as ‘the moment of a lifetime’.

The film-maker also won the battle of the exes at the US ceremony, with her Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker also winning best film and a total of six awards compared with three for former husband James Cameron’s 3D epic Avatar.

Bigelow’s best director gong was greeted with loud cheers from the star-studded audience in Los Angeles.

The 82nd Academy Awards also saw bookies’ favourite Jeff Bridges scoop best actor for country and western flick Crazy Heart, and Sandra Bullock win best actress for her role in The Blind Side.

It meant Britain’s best acting nominees and main Oscar hopes Colin Firth, Dame Helen Mirren and starlet Carey Mulligan went home empty-handed.

Bigelow looked surprised to receive best director and appeared to be shaking with emotion by the time the best picture award was read out.

She said on receiving the directing award: “This really is, there’s no way to describe it.

“It’s the moment of a lifetime.”

After receiving his gong, an elated Bridges said: “Thank you Mum and Dad, for turning me on to such a groovy profession.”

Sandra’s speech was designed to make the audience smile, as she paid tribute to her fellow nominees – Carey Mulligan, Dame Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep and Gabourey Sidibe. “I would like to thank the Academy for allowing me in the last month to have the most incredible ride with rooms full of artists that I see tonight … Four of them that I’ve fallen deeply in love with I share this night with and I share this award with.”