Martin O’Muilleoir of Sinn Fein both topped the poll in South Belfast and was the first candidate to be elected.
But the real story in South Belfast was both the success of the DUP – with both Emma Little Pengelly and Christopher Stalford on course for election – and the failure of the UUP candidate, Rodney McCune, to win the seat held for many years by Michael McGimpsey.
On top of that, the Green Party made a significant breakthrough, with its candidate Clare Bailey on course to be elected, meaning that for the first time there will be two Green MLAs on Stormont’s blue benches.
Mr O’Muilleoir came in on the fifth count, his election delayed by the huge number of candidates – there were 18 in total on ballot papers – which led to numerous eliminations of smaller candidates.
Claire Hanna of the SDLP polled a respectable second place on first preference votes and was almost certain to be elected.
But her running mate, the SDLP’s deputy leader Fearghal McKinney, failed to retain his seat, meaning that the only election which the former UTV journalist has ever won was that which saw him elected deputy leader of the party by its members.
Replacing the retiring Anna Lo on the ballot paper, Alliance’s Paula Bradshaw kept her seat.
But party colleague Duncan Morrow – who had hoped to double Alliance’s tally in a part of the capital where it is strong – did not put up a serious challenge for a seat, polling just 2,691 first preference votes.
Mr McCune, a barrister and former UUP special adviser at Stormont who has made multiple unsuccessful bids to get elected in numerous constituencies, polled just 2,466 votes, leaving him too far back to make up the ground with transfers.
Among the smaller parties, it was another disappointing constituency for the Northern Ireland Labour Party rebels, whose candidate, Brigitte Anton, took just 246 votes.
By contrast, young candidate Sean Burns of the Cross-Community Labour Alternative took 871 votes.
Former DUP councillor Ruth Patterson’s very personal challenge to Emma Little Pengelly failed to materialise, with her campaign manager, north Down loyalist Jamie Bryson early in proceedings accepting the blame for her vote of just 475.
The TUV’s John Hiddleston polled weakly, taking just 495 votes. And it was another disappointing constituency for both the PUP and Ukip, which both failed to mount any sort of serious challenge for a seat.
The results in the first count in South Belfast first preferences were as follows:
• Brigitte Anton (NI Lab Rep Comm) 246
• Clare Bailey (Green) 3,521
• Paula Bradshaw (Alliance) 3,332
• Sean Burns (Cross-Comm Lab Alt) 871
• Billy Dickson (S.Belfast Unionists) 351
• Claire Hanna (SDLP) 4,516
• John AHiddleston (TUV) 495
• Lily Kerr (Workers Party) 241
• Emma Little Pengelly (DUP) 4,511
• Ben Manton (Conservative) 161
• Rodney McCune (UUP) 2,466
• Fearghal McKinney (SDLP) 2,845
• Duncan Morrow (Alliance) 2,691
• Máirtín Ó Muilleoir (SF) 5,207
• Ruth Patterson (Ind.) 475
• Ian Shanks (PUP) 430
• Christopher Stalford (DUP) 3,517
• Bob Stoker (UKIP) 794