Americans face a nail-biting wait for the final results of the US presidential election, with the outcome of several key battlegrounds still too close to call and election agents warning some counts may not be finished for days.
Donald Trump looks set for victory in the pivotal race for Florida – considered a key challenge on the road to the White House – but other states remain a toss-up and could yet secure a narrow victory for Joe Biden.
Time and again Mr Biden appeared to take an early lead in important swing states thanks to a record-shattering surge in early postal ballots but polling day votes repeatedly helped the incumbent claw back into contention.
The country appeared more divided than ever as voters rebelled against deadline day polls which put Democrat Mr Biden around 10 points ahead of his Republican rival to leave the result neck-and-neck into the early hours of Wednesday.
The former vice-president’s home state of Pennsylvania was seen as a must-win for Mr Trump but it was among a handful of states that did not begin counting absentee ballots until election day, and may not have a final count ready until Friday.
States have different rules for how and when to count postal ballots, meaning there could be gaps in when results are reported, but even if the broader picture is enough to reveal the main plot points, the full story of this election may be some way away.
Wisconsin, Michigan and a number of other key battlegrounds that could be necessary to announce a definitive winner may not be ready until later in the week and it appears some votes, including in Pennsylvania, could be subject to a legal fight.
Mr Trump was expected to make an address to the nation and Democrats expressed concern the president could seek to seize control of a victory narrative and paint himself as the winner before the final votes had even been counted.
That likely played a key role in Mr Biden’s decision to make an address of his own, telling supporters he believed his campaign was on course for victory – something that led Mr Trump to accuse his rival of attempting to “steal” the election.
The battlegrounds in the Midwest and Rust Belt will play a key role in determining the real winner, with even a victory for Mr Trump in Florida and Ohio – which has voted for the winning candidate in every election since 1964 – not enough to rule Mr Biden out.
Even with a devastating loss in his home state, the challenger’s path to the magic 270 electoral college votes could still be secured with victories in Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district.
That’s because the former vice-president is projected to be the first Democrat to win Arizona since Bill Clinton defeated Bob Dole by 31,215 votes in 1996.
A victory in the state would be a major upset and come despite Mr Trump devoting huge resources and sometimes holding multiple rallies in one day in the hopes of securing an area he won by a narrow margin in 2016.
The last time the overall result was this unclear on election night was in 2000, when the eventual winner, George W Bush, was not confirmed until a Supreme Court ruling a month later. This election could yet have a similar outcome.