Labour is set to hold power in Wales after defying Tory challenges in key Red Wall seats.
First Minister Mark Drakeford's party surpassed gloomy polls ahead of the elections to seize 30 of the 60 Welsh Parliament seats - just one short of a majority.
Labour won back Rhondda from former Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood and lost just one seat - Vale of Clywd - to the Tories in the so-called Red Wall.
Mr Drakeford expressed delight that his party had "exceeded expectations" as he boosted his own majority in Cardiff West by 10,000 votes.
The results of the remaining seats will come in on Saturday but early successes mean Labour is on track to lead in Wales.
Polling at the start of the campaign warned Labour was at risk of winning as few as 22 of the Senedd's 60 seats.
But it held out against the devastation wrought by the Tories in Labour heartlands in England, in a glimmer of hope for Keir Starmer after he suffered a tough set of losses.
On Friday, Mr Drakeford said he was delighted his party had "exceeded expectations".
"Did I think we would be up approaching the top of the twenties? That was probably at the top end of what I thought was achievable, given the extraordinary circumstances of this election," he said.
He said he will wait until all election results were in before focusing on forming a new Welsh Government.
Asked if Labour would win a majority, Mr Drakeford said: "No party has ever won a majority in the Senedd. It's very hard to find those extra couple of seats.
"But we will be far closer to it than I think anybody imagined we would be.
"I will want to sit down tomorrow when we have a full suite of results in front of us to think about how we can achieve what we need here in Wales, which is a stable and progressive government."
Health minister Vaughan Gething, who boosted his majority in Cardiff South and Penarth by 4,879 votes, said the handling of the pandemic had been a key factor in the party's successes.
He said: "We've had to make life-changing choices that affected every single family in the country.
"The pandemic has thrust the First Minister in the spotlight, and most people like what they've seen in the way he's handled the pandemic."
Mr Gething said the Tories had put "a lot of heavy artillery" into North Wales, with repeated visits from Boris Johnson and senior Tories.
But Wrexham, Clwyd South and Delyn were all held by Labour despite being targeted by the Tories after they won the Westminster seats in 2019.
Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies said his party's taking of Vale of Clwyd from Labour was a "brilliant result", but suggested traditional Labour voters who voted Tory in the 2019 general election had now "come home" after the Brexit election of 2019.
Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood, who lost her Rhondda seat to Labour, told ITV Wales the result was "disappointing", but said her party ran a "clean and honest campaign".