The Democratic Unionists and Sinn Féin may be returning to power at Stormont with the exactly the same number of seats they went into the Assembly election with.

With around 81 of the 108 seats filled following the first day of counting, the DUP was on course to replicate the 38 wins of 2011 and Sinn Fein was again poised to secure the 29 it achieved five years ago.

Counting in 11 of the 18 constituencies is complete and counting for the remaining seats resumes at 9am.

At the moment the DUP has 33 seats, Sinn Féin 19, the Ulster Unionist Party 10, SDLP 9, the Alliance Party 6 and Independents and others 4.

While one or two results might still prevent that exact scenario playing out, it will still be essentially “as you were” for the region’s largest parties in the next Assembly.

DUP supporters were delighted with the performance last night, as even some party strategists had predicted a decrease on what was widely considered a high water mark in 2011.

Sinn Fein had wanted to secure the 30 seats that would have handed it the electoral strength to veto Assembly legislation using the much maligned “petition of concern” voting mechanism.

The smaller parties who filled seats in the coalition executive in the last term - the SDLP, Ulster Unionists and Alliance - failed to mount a significant challenge to the hegemony of the major government partners.

The SDLP was facing the prospect of losing a number of seats while the UUP also had a disappointing election and was left with only one Assembly representative in the whole of Belfast.

The new power-sharing administration is set to face vocal criticism from the opposition benches at Stormont, with socialist People Before Profit Alliance (PBPA) winning two seats. Gerry Carroll topped the poll in Sinn Féin’s west Belfast heartland while veteran campaigner Eamonn McCann won a seat in Foyle.

The Green Party also won two seats in the new mandate, with party leader Steven Agnew being joined by Clare Bailey. Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) and arch-critic of the last administration, retained his seat, though failed to bring any colleagues in with him.

During the campaign, Mrs Foster placed particular onus on beating Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness in the race to see which one of them took the First Minister’s job ahead of the Deputy First Minister’s job.

She was mobbed by jubilant supporters as she arrived at the Belfast count centre on Friday evening.

Once again, the vote share for the nationalists goes down. While very little overall shift, non-sectarian third parties are rising: