Scott Morrison appears set to return to power after voters in Queensland, NSW and Tasmania rallied behind the Liberal-National coalition.
However, former prime minister Tony Abbott has become the biggest casualty of the day losing his seat to independent Zali Steggall.
At 9.30pm, it appeared the coalition was holding 73 seats to Labor’s 65, with eight seats in doubt.
The crossbench is set to include at least independents Andrew Wilkie and Ms Steggall, Katter’s Australian Party leader Bob Katter, the Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie and the Greens’ Adam Bandt.
Key Liberal figures pointed to Mr Abbott’s opposition to ambitious action on climate change, and role in the downfall of Malcolm Turnbull, to him falling out of favour with local voters.
Former Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop described the loss of Warringah as an “inevitable outcome”, but was growing in confidence Mr Morrison would stay in power.
She said Mr Morrison’s presidential-style campaign had been successful, banking on polling showing he was preferred prime minister.
Mr Abbott told supporters at a rally there was “every chance the Liberal-National coalition has won this election”.
“It is a stupendous result,” Mr Abbott said.