Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy has romped home in Newry and Armagh despite months of pressure over his handling of the Northern Ireland water crisis.
He was one of three outgoing Stormont MLAs re-elected on the first count and was the first to be returned to the Assembly.
Mr Murphy, Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy and Dominic Bradley from the SDLP passed the first count quota in a constituency in which all six MLAs elected in 2007 are expected to win back their seats. It is the only constituency in which all Assembly members returned to seek re-election.
Regional Development Minister Mr Murphy gained 9,127 first preference votes, showing that negative publicity over the Northern Ireland Water crisis at Christmas did not affect his chances of regaining his seat.
Mr Kennedy had the second highest number of first preference votes at 8,718. Newry and Armagh is a constituency in which the UUP was expected to open up a lead over the DUP. Dominic Bradley received the third highest number of first preference votes at 7,123.
Later, Sinn Fein's Cathal Boylan and the DUP's William Irwin were elected, leaving the final seat a wide open contest between a third Sinn Fein candidate, Mickey Brady, and the SDLP's Thomas O'Hanlon. If the SDLP gain a second seat, it would be a shock in what was considered to be one of the most predictable constituencies.
In Upper Bann, Sinn Fein could take a second seat, at the likely expense of the Ulster Unionists.
The party's John O'Dowd was the only candidate to pass the quota of first preference votes to be elected. He received 6,649 votes.
However, Sinn Fein's popularity has been steadily rising in the constituency, becoming the second largest party in first preference votes in the 2007 Assembly election.
It is thought a second seat could go to 25-year-old Johnny McGibbon. Democratic Unionist candidates Stephen Moutray and Sydney Anderson are both expected to take seats.