IAIN Wright held off the challenge of Philip Broughton to ensure Labour did not lose Hartlepool to UKIP at the General Election.
The tension lasted well into the early hours of the morning at Mill House Leisure Centre as votes were counted and the outcome eagerly awaited.
When the final votes were cast, it was Mr Wright who emerged victorious with 14,076 votes - a majority of 3,024 over his UKIP rival, who polled 11,052 votes.
Turnout in the constituency was 57 per cent.
A jubilant Mr Wright, who received 35.6 per cent of the vote, paid tribute to his fellow candidates and said: “Most of all I’d like to thank the people of Hartlepool.
“This is the fourth time I’ve been selected as your MP and it’s a huge honour to be selected as somebody to represent you in Parliament, particularly your hometown.
“I love Hartlepool and want it to thrive and prosper and make sure we can come together in the spirit of unity and consensus over the next five years.
“I think Hartlepool will see some enormous challenges but I think we can also see some remarkable opportunities.
“I want to be a strong, passionate champion for Hartlepool.”
Mr Broughton, who received a 28 per cent share of the total vote, added: “I am proud of the campaign that I have led.
“Our vote share at the last election in Hartlepool was seven per cent. I have managed to increase that to 28 per cent. I think that’s a great achievement.
“We have cut Labour’s majority. This result in Hartlepool proves that UKIP is the challenger to Labour here in the north east.
“I think I ran a strong campaign. I had lots of people say they were leaving Labour and the Conservatives and coming over to UKIP because they want real change.”
Conservative candidate Richard Royal came third with 8,256 votes, followed by Independent Stephen Picton with 2,954.
They were followed by Michael Holt (Green) with 1,341, Sandra Allison (Save Hartlepool Hospital) 849, Hilary Allen (Liberal Democrat) 761 and John Hobbs (Independent) with 201 votes.
Conservative candidate Richard Royal said: “I think it’s a respectable result.
“I’m disappointed to have slipped to third place but think it is a reflection of the amount of resources Ukip has been able to put into this campaign.”
Independent candidate, Hartlepool taxi driver, Stephen Picton said: “The last four months have been strenuous but I fought a nice clean campaign to the end.
“The support I’ve had has been fantastic. I think it’s because I’m just a down to earth person, I’m just a man on the street.
“I’m not your every day politician.
“To have got nearly 3,000 votes when it is my first time outspeaks volumes.”
Elsewhere, Grahame Morris was re-elected as Labour MP for Easington.
Mr Morris polled 21,132 votes giving him a majority of 14,641 in one of the safest seats in the country.
His closest rival was UKIP’s Jonathan Arnott who received 6,491 votes.