Although Arlene Foster topped the poll with 8,479 first preference votes in Fermanagh South Tyrone it was not enough to see her elected until the second stage.
Unlike her relaxed manner among the press at the same count last year, this year the DUP hired their own private room, the door of which was unusually barred by two burly security guards and she appeared to avoid the press throughout the afternoon.
The DUP vote climbed from 22.7% last year to 29.8% of the turnout but Sinn Fein jumped by over 10% from 32.6% to 42.11%.
Arlene's vote of 8,479 votes was down slightly from 8,801 last year but better vote management saw her running mate Lord Morrow's vote climb from 6,602 last year to 7102.
But with a quota of 8711 neither were elected by the first stage.
Sinn Fein's Jemma Dolan won 7767, Michelle Gildernew 7987 and Sean Lynch 6254 first preferences in a solid performance in the DUP leader's own constituency.
The UUP's Rosemary Barton won 6060 and the SDLP's Richie McPhilips won 5,153 while the TUV's Alex Elliott won 780.
There had been a consensus that there were two unionist and two nationalist seats this time around.
At around 5pm instead of the results of the second stage, it was announced that a recall of it had been called by someone instead.
There was speculation that the DUP's Lord Morrow could be in difficulty but with the DUP camp keeping such a low profile it was impossible to get any immediate clarification.
The count is mainly be seen as a largely soulless event compared to last year, where Union Flags and Tricolours and cheering was evident in abundance. Perhaps they may appear at the later stages.
Just after 6pm Arlene Foster emerged for the first time in front of the media in the count, where she gave one interview to UTV only.
As she was speaking, the results of stage two in her constituency were announced and she was elected with 8745 votes.
She broke into a smile and her band of supporters cheered and embraced her, however the weight of the campaign hung heavy in the air.
Despite Sinn Fein's strong performance the DUP still speaks as the voice of unionism, she said.
The SDLP's Richie McPhillips was eliminated at the same stage and his votes now transfer to the remaining candidates.
The other four seats are still to be settled.