Spears was nominated in the Best Worldwide category, but was beaten by Korean boyband BIGBANG, who were visibly surprised by their win.
Meanwhile, the American singer didn't get a look into the mainstream categories. Energy was the theme of the night, with young, dynamic performers being crowned for their efforts over more soulful, reflective performers.
Lady Gaga took home four awards: Best Female, Best Song (Born This Way), Best Video (Born This Way) and Biggest Fan. The last is a brand new award that recognises the artist with the most committed fanbase. This was self-evident by the number of tweets circulating the globe ensuring Gaga went home with this one.
Katie Perry turned up to collect her trophy for Best Live, boasting that she'd played in the very same arena only 10 days before - unsurprising, as Perry has been on the road for much of the past year, travelling all across the globe to promote her album Teenage Dream.
Justin Bieber overcame a personally trying week - the small matter of a paternity claim by a fan demanding a DNA swab and lifetime maintenance for her newly-born child - to collect two awards, for Best Male and Best Pop.
His less-pop-more-soul counterpart Bruno Mars took home a couple as well, triumphing in the Best Push and Best New categories. He also performed an upbeat version of Marry You.
The more indie fans in the crowd were delighted with Thirty Seconds to Mars’ double-win, those of Best Alternative and Best World Stage.Here's our Slideshow of all the MTV EMA Awards stars in all their finery last night in Belfast...