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Close encounters of the awkward kind!

Exes Renee Zellweger and Bradley Cooper nearly had an unplanned red carpet reunion at Monday's Costume Institute Gala Benefit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

Cooper, 36, appeared on the star-packed red carpet with a beloved date: His mother, Gloria.

Just 20 minutes later, his former love Zellweger, 42 -- they called it quits in March after two years together -- was one of the last arrivals. She showed up solo, looking stunning in a Carolina Herrera gown. No word yet on whether the exes interacted once inside the lavish fete.

After the Met bash, Zellweger then made an appearance at an after party held at hotspot Crown; the late-night fete was also attended by Eva Mendes, Salma Hayek, Kanye West, Bruno Mars, Janelle Monae, Zoe Kravitz, Paul McCartney, Naomi Campbell, Jay Z, Beyonce and Madonna.

An insider actually spotted Cooper nearly enter the party -- before suddenly changing his mind and getting back into his his car to drive away.

Last weekend, Zellweger celebrated her 42nd birthday in the Big Apple; her assistant planned a surprise bash at a pal's apartment with friends like hotelier Andre Balazs, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and CAA director Bryan Lourd. The Oscar winner had a "great time," an insider told Us.