With 72% of the votes counted sitting Mayor Damien Ryan has scored 43.8% which is short of the 50% plus one vote he needs to be re-elected.
Significant leakage of preferences from his four opponents could get him across the line, but toppling Mr Ryan was their common goal and they all put him last on their how-to-vote cards.
Front-runner of the four, Steve Brown, was not confident that people had mainly followed the cards. He said a lot of people didn't take them. A scrutineer had observed some leakage of preferences to Mr Ryan from Dave Douglas votes.
This morning Mr Brown said he was a "bit disappointed" with the result so far: "We all thought there would have been a bigger movement for change than we've seen"
When counting stopped last night Mr Brown had 21.7%, followed by Eli Melky (17.7%), Dave Douglas (12.1%) and Samih Habib Bitar (4.8%).
Mr Brown was also top scorer in the count for councillor with 14.6%. Fellow mayoral challengers Eli Melky (13.5%) and Dave Douglas (10.6%) followed him.
There are 14239 electors on the roll but as we reported recently, 70% is about the norm of valid votes cast, that's around 10,000 votes.
The formula for getting elected is the number of valid votes divided by the number of vacancies plus one, which works out at about 1100 votes.
That means on present results Mr Brown and Mr Melky can safely be regarded as elected, and Mr Douglas and the Greens' Jade Kudrenko are close.
Along with the possible unseating of Mr Ryan, the results so far are a strong endorsement of the law and order faction which is also opposed to some current and any greater alcohol restrictions.
PHOTO: Polling booth at the civic centre yesterday afternoon.
When the aldermen and Mayor Damien Ryan now seeking re-election, were standing for council in 2008, law and order and alcohol regulation were at the top of the local agenda and there they've pretty much stayed for the four years since. What's new is the dramatic decline of the Alice Springs town centre. Two weeks ago I suggested it might be a "shuddering readjustment"; now it is starting to feel like a nose-dive, with the voluntary administration of the Memo Club and the closure of the Town & Country Tavern made public knowledge on the one day.
The picture is one of a town centre being abandoned, even while we talk about its rejuvenation or revitalisation. The term may soon have to be resurrection.
KIERAN FINNANE looks at where we were four years ago and where we have got to now.
Pictured: Alice Springs closed for business? The southern end of Todd Mall around 6.15pm last night. Dead as a doornail.