Usually, it’s all over bar the shouting by 3am, sometimes even earlier if it is clear that one party has achieved a landslide. But this has been no ordinary election, and this was never going to be an ordinary election night.
With each hour that came and went, the picture appeared to grow more and more confused as those of us watching on telly struggled to make sense of it all.
At various points in the evening, it seemed as though the Tories would either get a small majority, or at the very least come close enough to the winning post to govern as a minority administration.
But in the end, they fell 20 seats short, paving the way for one of the most dramatic days of political wheeler-dealing in recent electoral history and the prospect of the first Lib-Con coalition since the days of David Lloyd George.
David Cameron’s offer of a deal with Nick Clegg which could extent to a formal coalition was nothing if not bold, and demonstrated the Tory leader’s ability to seize the agenda.
As I write, the two men have agreed to explore the idea further, and fresh developments over the course of the weekend seem very likely.
But although Mr Cameron in his St Stephen’s Club speech yesterday was at pains to point out the potential areas of policy agreement with the Lib Dems, he was not entirely convincing on this score.
The Lib Dems’ opposition to the Trident nuclear deterrent and support for electoral reform are likely to be the big sticking points, although on the latter point, it has been suggested that the Tories could concede a referendum in which they would then campaign for a “no” vote.
Of course, it could easily have been very different. Another 30 seats for the Lib Dems and a handful more for Labour, and we could have been talking much more seriously about a Lib-Lab deal instead.
But although Prime Minister Gordon Brown is playing a patient waiting game in Number 10 in the hope that the Clegg-Cameron talks fail, his position is exceptionally weak.
The option of a Lib-Lab pact has least two big drawbacks. Firstly, it would not provide a “strong and stable government,” because the combined forces of the two parties do not in fact add up to a parliamentary majority.
Secondly, both parties performed so poorly in the election that a Lib-Lab alliance would be too easily portrayed by the Tories and the media as a “coalition of losers.”
Mr Brown is pinning his hopes on the fact that he has already offered a referendum on proportional representation, while Mr Cameron has so far talked only of an “all-party inquiry” into voting reform - but this is a chimera.
The fact is, I doubt that an electoral reform referendum could actually be won in those circumstances, as the public would simply see it as two defeated parties teaming up to change the system for their mutual benefit.
In any case, as I wrote last week, a Lib-Con coalition would be the outcome that probably best reflects the will of the public as expressed in this election – a desire for change, coupled with a desire to deny any one party a majority.
There are still formidable obstacles to a deal, not least the views of Mr Clegg’s own MPs. But the public’s evident desire for one is the biggest single reason why it just might happen.