French far-right leader Marine Le Pen won her symbolic duel with President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday, as euro-sceptic forces made strong gains in the EU parliamentary election.
European mainstream parties put up enough of a defense to keep a possible majority in the 751-seat assembly - and Green parties surged in western Europe - but Le Pen's victory in her head-to-head with Macron set the tone of the night.
Le Pen's National Rally was on track for around 24%, with Macron's centrists trailing with 22 to 23%, according to two polls from Ifop-Fiducial and Harris Interactive-Agence Epoka.
Le Pen's party was already the biggest French group in the outgoing parliament, and does not seem to have gained ground, but Macron personally invested himself in the campaign and was diminished by his loss.
Italy's far-right League, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, also won the most votes with between 27-31%, according to exit polls.
Across Europe however, according to a projection prepared by the parliament, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) is on course to have the most seats in the assembly with 173, down sharply from 216 in 2014.
With the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) projected to win 147, down from 185, the two mainstream parties will no longer have a majority and will have to reach out to liberals to maintain a cordon sanitaire and exclude the far-right from decision making.
Each previous EU election since the first in 1979 has seen turnout fall, but initial figures from across the 28-nation bloc suggested this year's culture clash has mobilized both populists and those who oppose them.
I guess that some marginal parties will be less marginal tonight, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said as he cast his vote in his native Luxembourg.
In his home country of Poland, European Council chief Donald Tusk expressed confidence that voters would not succumb to the approach of what he called radical political movements, euro skeptics.
But he admitted that the stakes were high: The first priority, not only for this institution, is to save the EU as a project, not only at this time but in the long term, and I'm sure that they will manage.