The first real flurry of activity was sparked with the arrival of the ballot boxes – the parties’ tally men jockeying for position, armed with their clipboards to get an early indication of how their candidates had fared.
There was a strong presence of DUP MLAs and Lisburn councillors, including Brenda Hale, Paul Givan and Jonathan Porter, in a buoyant mood from the off and they appeared happy having got sight of the early ballot papers.
TUV candidate Sammy Morrison also appeared happy with the contents of the first three or four boxes.
Sitting MP Jeffrey Donaldson arrived at the count centre around 10.20pm along with party colleague and former health minister Edwin Poots.
Mr Donaldson had good reason for looking relaxed as he is expected to comfortably retain the seat he won in 2010 with a majority of 10,486.
The votes were expected to be verified around 11.30pm before the count proper began. A result is expected around 1.30am.