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.