After months of campaigning, promises totaling in the billions, a controversial visit to Newcastle by the premier, one star candidate pulling out over an alleged altercation with a flatmate and another banned from Facebook, what does the political picture in the Hunter look like after Saturday's NSW election?
Much the same as it did before.
If, as expected, the Nationals' Michael Johnsen hangs on to Upper Hunter by the skin of his teeth, none of the Hunter's nine electorates will have changed hands.
Kate Washington held on to the battleground seat of Port Stephens with an increased margin, independent Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper doubled his already healthy margin and could be headed for the Speaker's chair, and the other seven electorates remained among the safest Labor seats in the state.
Outside the Hunter, Saturday night was a triumph for Gladys Berejiklian, the state's first elected female premier, and the Coalition.
Counting is still progressing in the handful of seats still in doubt, but the Coalition looks likely to secure the 47 it needs to form a majority government and not rely on the votes of Mr Piper and Parliament's two other independents, an outcome the bookies were favouring before Saturday.
But the Lower Hunter remains in the too-hard basket for the conservatives, even though the rest of the state has returned them for a rare third term in government.
Maitland, Charlestown, Swansea and Cessnock all recorded small swings to Liberal or Nationals candidates, even though most of them were gagged from talking freely to the media during the campaign and seemingly avoided open public forums. But Newcastle, and, to a lesser extent, Wallsend, were a horror show for the Liberal party.
With three quarters of the vote counted, Tim Crakanthorp stretched his 7.4 per cent margin to 17 per cent in Newcastle courtesy of a 10 per cent swing, Labor's second largest in the state.
This despite a $700 million government spend on the Revitalising Newcastle program, which the Liberals trumpeted as a long-overdue investment in the city after years of Labor neglect, and a $780 million commitment to rebuild and expand John Hunter Hospital.
The Liberals endorsed 23-year-old Blake Keating then tied one hand behind his back by restricting his access to the media for fear he might damage the wider campaign.
It was the same Hippocratic oath strategy (first, do no harm) the Coalition employed in the other Lower Hunter seats except Port Stephens, where Jaimie Abbott was given free rein to take on Ms Washington.
In Newcastle, the Liberal primary vote collapsed from Karen Howard's 35.5 per cent in 2015 to 26.2 per cent on Saturday.
Scot MacDonald, the Liberal parliamentary secretary for the Hunter who has now exited politics after being shunted down the upper house ballot last year, said he had communicated with the Premier on Sunday that the party needed to do better in the region to give voters a viable alternative.
"I'm definitely disappointed it's not more of a mixed result in the Hunter. I'm just not sure what the mono-culture representation does for the Hunter," he said. "I certainly think we've got to lift our game, there's no doubt about it, in terms of who we put up and how we campaign and what we message."
He said the party needed to find more experienced candidates with better community connections.
"We haven't delivered in that respect. We do see it as possible. We had that experience in 2011. Yes, it was a big [statewide] swing, but people still put a tick against blue that time.
"But we've got a lot of work to do. The results weren't good for us in the Hunter. No one can describe it any other way."
Mr Crakanthorp said the "dodgy" port sell-offs, which preclude Newcastle from developing a large container terminal, and the city's "decimated" bus network had resonated with voters.
"The privatisation of our bus system has affected people incredibly, and this government's really out of touch in that regard."
He said the government's failure to produce a business case for expanding the light rail line, four years after it was promised, had also put people offside, and he referred to a widely publicised media conference at which Ms Berejiklian and Transport Minister Andrew Constance evaded questions about the issue.
"The people of Newcastle do not like being taken for fools. You can't just come here and whitewash stuff."
Mr MacDonald said the result in Newcastle was "perplexing" given the government's investment.
"Yes, we had a young person there with not a lot of experience. I get that. But I don't think he deserved that sort of swing.
"I think the result [of the renewal program] is by and large accepted by the community, but whether the process of getting there seems to be still not accepted in terms of closing the rail and that sort of thing."
Ms Abbott's campaign suffered a blow two weeks ago when one of her volunteers, a parliamentary staffer to MLC Catherine Cusack, was accused of using fake Facebook profiles to troll Labor in Port Stephens.
Facebook subsequently shut Ms Abbott's account and seven fake profiles.
Asked if the episode had hurt her chances of winning back the seat for the Liberals, Mr MacDonald said: "Yes, I do. No question about it. It's silly stuff, poor judgment, and I think it's to be deeply regretted. I never want to see anything like that again.
"It comes down to leadership and your sense of responsibility, so there's no excuses there. The public look at that stuff and make their judgments about what's gone on."
The Liberals promised more than $450 million in road funding for Nelson Bay Road and a Fingal Bay link road during the campaign.
Mr MacDonald, who is from Guyrah, was touted as a possible candidate in Maitland but decided not to run. He said he did not regret that decision because voters would prefer someone who lived in the electorate, but he had applied for jobs in the Hunter and did not rule out a return to politics.